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- 03/17/17--10:10: _BREMMER: The North ...
- 03/17/17--10:50: _Tillerson won't rul...
- 03/18/17--09:02: _The US is consideri...
- 03/19/17--07:31: _A Navy SEAL explain...
- 03/20/17--05:37: _Latest missile test...
- 03/20/17--07:01: _'We are fully ready...
- 03/20/17--07:22: _Russia to build a s...
- 03/20/17--15:45: _Nearly 200,000 US t...
- 03/21/17--11:49: _The $54 billion que...
- 03/22/17--06:55: _North Korea's nukes...
- 03/22/17--10:41: _US Navy: Iran jeopa...
- 03/22/17--11:18: _Tillerson urges US ...
- 03/22/17--13:00: _Here's when the F-3...
- 03/23/17--06:00: _How Lockheed Martin...
- 03/23/17--08:22: _US forces just went...
- 03/23/17--13:10: _US officials warn t...
- 03/24/17--10:29: _The stories from in...
- 03/25/17--06:05: _The most dangerous ...
- 03/25/17--11:28: _Here's how you're t...
- 03/25/17--12:23: _Iran: We don't 'har...
- 03/19/17--07:31: A Navy SEAL explains how you can escape a carjacking
- 03/21/17--11:49: The $54 billion question we need to ask about defense
- 03/22/17--13:00: Here's when the F-35 will use stealth mode vs. 'beast mode'
- 03/23/17--13:10: US officials warn that North Korea will test another missile soon
- 03/24/17--10:29: The stories from inside North Korea's prison camps are horrifying
- 03/25/17--06:05: The most dangerous countries for American tourists, ranked
While the US openly mulls military action against North Korea and its possibly nuclear consequences, another threat looms largely behind: China.
"Broadly speaking, if you asked me a year ago if war between major powers was thinkable, I'd say no. Now I'd say yes," Ian Bremmer, the head of Eurasia Group told Business Insider.
"Not imminent, not likely, but it could happen."
China has a vested strategic interest in maintaining a North Korean state that's unfriendly to the West to act as a buffer state between the powerful, democratic state of South Korea and China's authoritarian mainland.
China may not support North Korea's brutal human rights abuses or their nuclear threats, but it is highly unlikely that the country would stand idly by if the US tried to remove Kim Jong-un, according to Bremmer. A unified, Western-leaning Korea would be a threat to China's efforts to project power throughout the region.
"The US-China relationship will be radically worse if we strike North Korea," said Bremmer. A strike against Pyongyang would "clearly have implications on US markets," with a direct, almost existential risk to South Korea, he added.
And if Trump takes out his frustrations over North Korea on China, it could lead to a dangerous deterioration of relations, and possibly the first major power conflict since World War II, according to Bremmer.
Even if the US doesn't take military action, the Trump administration's hawkish stance on North Korea could still sour relations between Beijing and Washington, the world's two biggest economies, said Bremmer.
China's hardline conservatives "would love to have an excuse to go harder on the US," he said.
Trump has repeatedly pushed China to put more pressure on North Korea, but China's influence in Pyongyang has been fading.
Kim Jong Un recently executed senior military officials with ties to China, limiting Beijing's influence. Chinese President Xi Jinping did support sanctions on North Korea, so it's unclear what else Trump could demand of Xi.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson opened up his first official trip to Asia announcing that the US would consider "all options" to deal with the growing nuclear threat from North Korea.
He even refused to rule out having Japan and South Korea develop their own nuclear weapons in an interview with Fox News.
In March 2016, before North Korea's nuclear testing had quite reached the fever pitch it's at today, Trump proposed allowing South Korea and Japan to develop their own nukes to protect themselves.
The proposal was widely panned by nuclear-proliferation experts.
But Tillerson now stresses that all options are on the table for dealing with North Korea, and that could include more countries building nuclear weapons.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, told Business Insider the idea that North Korea's nuclear posturing could be answered with further nuclearization of the region was "foolish, simplistic, and naive," and "deeply, deeply troubling."
"If all options are on the table, that should mean that diplomacy and talks with North Korea are on the table," said Kimball, who acknowledged that "Tillerson is right that, up to now, US administrations have not succeded in denuclearizing North Korea."
But the US has refused talks with North Korea and also refused to cancel its military drills with South Korea, which China said Pyongyang would be willing to stop their nuclear program over.
"But it's a pure fantasy for Rex Tillerson to demand that North Korea denuclearize before allowing or agreeing to talks" with Pyongyang, Kimball added, also providing a thorough timeline of diplomatic attempts to curb the rogue nation's nuclear program.
Tillerson, who traveled to Asia without the customary press corps, has raised many questions over the US's intentions in South Korea but provided few answers.
"Tillerson says something new is required. We're at day 57 and this is the most urgent foreign-policy issue we have," Kimball said. "What is the new policy?"
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made waves on Friday when he expressed his dissatisfaction with decades of failed diplomacy towards North Korea and mentioned that the US would consider "all options," including military strikes.
To be fair, the US has always considered all options.
If any nation in the world threatens another, the US, with its global reach, considers a range of diplomatic, economic, and even kinetic options to shape the situation.
But defense experts say a military strike against North Korea is unlikely for a number of reasons.
"There is no plausible military option," Jeffrey Lewis, founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk told Business Insider. "To remove the North Korean government is general war."
Because North Korea has missiles hidden all across the country, there's simply no way to quickly and cleanly remove the Kim regime from power or even neutralize the nuclear threat, according to Lewis.
"This is not a case where you're striking a nuclear program in its early stages," said Lewis, who noted that North Korea has been testing nuclear weapons for more than a decade. "The time to do a preemptive attack was like 20 years ago."
Last month, North Korea tested a land-based nuclear-capable ballistic missile that could be launched off a tank-like truck in a matter of minutes. And though the country's nuclear arsenal is still in its early phases, the country reportedly commands 100 missile launchers with several missiles for each.
Last September, the country tested a nuclear weapon some estimates suggest was more powerful than the bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima.
While North Korea's nuclear threat has grown, according to Lewis, massive artillery installations hidden in the hills and trained on South Korea's capital and most populous city, Seoul have long been a problem.
But artillery and shelling is nowhere near as destructive as nuclear weapons. If North Korean artillery fired on Seoul, South Korea would counter attack and suppress fire.
"It would kill a lot of people and be a humanitarian disaster," Lewis said of a North Korean artillery strike on Seoul. "But that's nothing like putting a nuclear weapon on Seoul, Busan, or Tokyo. North Korea's ability to inflict damage has gone way up."
As Tillerson accurately stated, diplomatic efforts to quash North Korea's nuclear ambitions have failed for decades. The US's patience has been understandably tried by the recent missile launches clearly intended as a saturation attack, where a large volume of missiles would overwhelm US and allied missile defenses.
However, there is a way out. China recently floated a North Korean-backed proposal for the US to end their annual military drills with South Korea and, in return, North Korea would stop working on nukes. The US flat out rejected the offer, as they have in the past.
"The onus is on North Korea to take meaningful actions toward denuclearization and refrain from provocations," Mark Toner, the acting spokesman for the State Department, said at a press briefing on Wednesday.
Toner suggested that comparing the US's transparent, planned, defensive, and 40-year-old military drills in South Korea with North Korea's 24 ballistic missile launches in 2016 was a case of "apples to oranges."
North Korea's position is "not crazy," according to Lewis. There is a long history of serious military conflicts beginning under the pretense of military exercises, as Russia's 2008 invasion of Georgia did.
"The reality is that the US forces are there, we say they're there for an exercise, but you can't take that as a promise, you have to treat it as an invasion," said Lewis.
Instead, Lewis suggested that part of the purpose of the military exercises has always been to make sure the US and South Korea can capably execute their war plans, but the other purpose has always been political — to reassure South Korea.
Meanwhile, each year the Foal Eagle exercises, where the US and South Korea rehearse their war plan for conflict with North Korea, grow in size. Lewis said that reducing the exercises could go a long way towards calming down North Korea.
If diplomacy and sanctions continue to fail, the consequences could be disastrous.
"North Korea wants an ICBM with a thermonuclear weapon. They're not going to stop cause they get bored," Lewis said.
The US and North Korea are currently locked in strategies to "maximize pain" on the other party, according to Lewis. The US holds massive drills in part to scare North Korea, while North Korea tests nukes to scare the west.
Without some form of cooperation between the two sides soon, diplomacy will continue to fail until it fails catastrophically. And that makes military confrontations, though unlikely, more viable every day.
Former Navy SEAL Clint Emerson, author of 100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative's Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation, explains how to escape if you're being carjacked. Following is a transcript of the video.
Carjackings can be volatile, and the situation really dictates, but there are some general rules that you can follow. One of which is leave gaps. Leave yourself room to escape. Meaning don’t ride the person’s bumper in front of you. Give yourself enough distance between the cars and know that all terrain is driveable.
A lot of people feel confined to the yellow and white lines or the sidewalk. You can drive over those lines, you can drive over that sidewalk in order to escape a threat. Keep that in mind, but you can only do it if you’ve left the gaps there for yourself.
Second, keep your windows rolled up. If you keep them down it gives them an opportunity to get physical with you before you know it and you can’t do anything about it or it’s too late. Acceleration, the gas pedal is your friend. Don’t feel like you just have to sit there. Once again, if you’ve left the gaps, punch the pedal and move out of the way.
North Korea has likely mastered the technology to power the different stages of an intercontinental ballistic missile and may show it off soon, analysts say, but is likely still a long way from being able to hit the mainland United States.
North Korean state media announced its latest rocket-engine test on Sunday, saying it would help North Korea achieve world-class satellite-launch capability, indicating a new type of rocket engine for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The test showed "meaningful" progress, a spokesman for South Korea's Defence Ministry said on Monday, with the firing of a main engine and four auxiliary engines as part of the development of a new rocket booster.
The announcement of the test came as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Beijing at the end of his first visit to Asia for talks dominated by concern about North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.
"Through this test, it is found that engine function has made meaningful progress but further analysis is needed for exact thrust and possible uses," Lee Jin-woo, the spokesman for the South Korean defense ministry, told a briefing.
North Korea's state media released pictures of the high-thrust engine test overseen by leader Kim Jong Un, and reported him hailing it as "a new birth" of its rocket industry.
A South Korean expert on rocket engineering said the test was ominous.
"This was a comprehensive test for the first-stage rocket for an ICBM, and that is why it was dangerous," Kim Dong-yub of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies in Seoul told Reuters.
"It appears that North Korea has worked out much of its development of the first-stage rocket booster."
But Kim said the North had still not mastered the atmospheric re-entry technology needed for an ICBM, so it had work to do before being able to hit the United States.
Nevertheless, it might soon demonstrate that it has perfected the system's booster rocket stage.
"What could be next is they would make a new type of ICBM with this new engine system and launch it, but not the entire stages, but to make only the first stage, fly about 400 km and drop.
"They are not going to show it all at once."
Aiming for US?
North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests and a series of missile launches in defiance of U.N. resolutions, and is believed by experts and government officials to be working to develop nuclear-warhead missiles that could reach the United States.
Leader Kim Jong Un said this year the country was close to test-launching an ICBM.
Kim's ambition is believed to be to develop a launch vehicle able to strike a part of the continental United States, most likely Alaska, just over 5,000 km (3,000 miles) from the North's missile test site.
Last week, Tillerson issued the Trump administration's starkest warning yet to North Korea, saying a military response would be "on the table" if it took action to threaten South Korean and U.S. forces.
Experts disagreed in their initial assessment of whether the North's test was for the engine for an ICBM, and for which stage of a rocket it was meant for.
U.S. aerospace expert John Schilling said the engine appeared too big for any ICBM North Korea was working on but would be a good fit for the second stage of a new space rocket it is planning to build.
Joshua Pollack, of the Washington-based Nonproliferation Review, said the design with four verniers, or steering nozzles, was familiar in the North's older, long-range rockets launched to deliver objects previously but said it could be the second stage of a missile, not the first.
"Since the comparable display of 2016 was the first stage of an ICBM, we could speculate that this is the second stage,” Pollack told Reuters in an email.
North Korea fired rockets in 2012 and in 2016 to put objects into space.
Experts say space rockets and long-range missiles involve fundamentally identical technologies, but with different configurations for trajectory and velocity for the stages.
China said on Monday the situation with North Korea was at a new crossroads with two scenarios - a deterioration to war or a diplomatic solution.
"Any chance for dialogue must be seized, as long as there’s hope," Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in Beijing.
A U.S.-led battalion of more than 1,100 soldiers will be deployed in Poland from the start of April, a U.S. commander said on Monday, as the alliance sets up a new force in response to Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea.
More than 900 U.S. soldiers, around 150 British personnel and some 120 Romanian troops will make up the battlegroup in northeastern Poland, one of four multinational formations across the Baltic region that Russia has condemned as an aggressive strategy on its frontiers.
"This is a mission, not a cycle of training events," U.S. Army Lt. Colonel Steven Gventer, who heads the battlegroup, told a news conference. "The purpose is to deter aggression in the Baltics and in Poland ... We are fully ready to be lethal."
Britain, Canada and Germany are leading the other three battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which are due to be operational by June. They will have support from a series of NATO nations including France.
In total, some 4,000 NATO troops - equipped with tanks, armored vehicles, air support and hi-tech mission information rooms - will monitor for and defend against any potential Russian incursions.
Moscow, which denies having any expansionist or aggressive agenda, accuses NATO of trying to destabilize central Europe and has respond by forming four new military divisions to strengthen its western and central regions and stepping up exercises.
Seeking to avoid stationing troops permanently on Russia's borders, the new NATO force across the Baltics and Poland can rely on a network of eight small NATO outposts in the region, regular training exercises and, in the case of attack, a much larger force of 40,000 alliance troops.
"We are not the entirety of NATO's response," said U.S. Army Major Paul Rothlisberger, part of the U.S.-led battalion to be based in Orzysz, 220 kilometers (137 miles) northeast of Warsaw.
The alliance is seeking to show the ex-Soviet countries in NATO that they are protected from the kind of annexation Russia orchestrated in February in 2014 in Ukraine's Crimea.
It also wants to avoid a return to the Cold War, when the United States had some 300,000 service personnel stationed in Europe, and stick to a 1997 agreement with Moscow not to permanently station forces on the Russian border.
The plan is being implemented as Western powers try for a peace settlement in eastern Ukraine, where NATO says Russia supports separatist rebels with weapons and troops.
Russia plans to stage large-scale war games near its western borders this year, but has not said how many troops will take part.
For more than 700 days and nights, in all weathers, a small group of hardcore anti-Kremlin activists has guarded a makeshift memorial to murdered Putin critic Boris Nemtsov on a bridge opposite Moscow's Red Square.
The temporary shrine, made up of flowers, candles and portraits, is meant as a precursor for a permanent memorial plaque at the site where Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister, was shot dead in February 2015 in a case that has yet to be solved.
A rallying point for a fragmented opposition, it is often pieced back together by the activists, who have been refused a plaque over a regulation that Putin himself circumvented in a different case in 2013.
Activists say city cleaners have dismantled the shrine almost 30 times, nationalist thugs have assaulted them, and police have detained them over allegations they are disturbing public order.
Now, the authorities have announced plans to close much of the bridge for repairs, depriving the liberal opposition of its most visible political platform.
"The aim of this construction work is simple," said Lyubov Sobol, a prominent opposition campaigner. "To get rid of the people's memorial in front of the Kremlin until, at the very least, the presidential election in 2018, and at best, forever."
The authorities say the work, due to start in May and last 14 months, is urgent and not politically motivated.
They made the same argument in 2010, when they closed a Moscow square, Triumfalnaya Ploshad, that had become the main venue for anti-Putin rallies, saying an underground car park would be built there.
It never was, but the site became an archaeological dig for two years and the square only reopened long after the 2012 presidential election. It has since been landscaped in a way to make protests impossible.
A battle to choose heroes
Visible from Red Square when activists run up a flag there, the shrine to 55-year-old Nemtsov sits on one of the most popular routes for tourists, whose numbers will swell dramatically next year when Russia hosts the World Cup.
The opposition, which is given no air time on state television, is unlikely to field a candidate next year capable of unseating Putin, who enjoys strong ratings.
But for many activists, the memory of Nemtsov -- he helped found the main anti-Kremlin movements -- and the modest shrine, are a source of hope. For the past two years, thousands of people have marched nearby on the anniversary of his death.
"The authorities don't like to be reminded of a person who dedicated his life to fight for democratic values or of a political murder near the Kremlin's walls,” Zhanna Nemtsova, the slain politician's daughter, told Reuters.
“Memory, in modern history, is closely linked to politics."
Five Chechen men are on trial for Nemtsov's murder. Investigators say their motive was purely commercial.
Olga Shorina, a long-standing Nemtsov ally, said the repairs looked like an attempt to erase his memory.
“The authorities have other heroes,” said Shorina.
When a vote to identify the most notable figures in Russian history was last organized by state TV, in 2008, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin came third, reflecting many Russians' respect for strong leadership even if the cost - in human lives - is high.
Public enthusiasm for Nemtsov is lower.
A Levada Centre survey showed this month that 43 percent of those asked opposed a memorial plaque in his honor against just 25 percent in favor. The rest didn't know how to respond.
Some Russians associate Nemtsov with the 1990s, a period of food shortages when he was a deputy prime minister. State television has portrayed him as an irrelevant has-been and Putin's spokesman has said he was "quite an average citizen".
At a March 7 public hearing, Yuri Ivankov, head of Gormost, Moscow's bridge maintenance division, showed pictures of rusty bridge parts he said proved it needed urgent attention.
"A decision has been taken by the Moscow government to repair the bridge ... and we will repair it," Ivankov said.
Kremlin critics note there are no plans to overhaul some of the city’s older bridges, and leading Moscow architect Yevgeny Asse and other specialists say there is no need for major repairs now.
Ivankov, whose department is the one which sends in the cleaners, told activists at the hearing to stop asking him "political questions" about the shrine and try to legalize it instead.
Authorities cite a rule stating 10 years must pass before any memorial can be erected, although in 2013, Putin authorized a Moscow street to be named after Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez four months after his death.
Ivankov told reporters he would need authorization from the FSB, the successor to the KGB, the police and the FSO, the agency that protects Putin, to stop clearing away the shrine, described on Gormost's website as a health and safety risk.
Putin said in 2015 he would ask Moscow's mayor to ensure people were allowed to leave tributes. Activists said the clearances became less frequent but continued nonetheless.
Andrei Margulev, one of the shrine’s most tenacious defenders, said activists had a backup plan to set up in another location, which he asked Reuters not to disclose. It would be far less high profile than the political heart of the capital.
"This place is a small island of humanity in a sea of inhumanity. That’s why it’s so precious to us,” he said of the current location.
Olga Lehtonen, a fellow activist, said the authorities could only string out the repairs for so long. “Sooner or later, the work will end and we'll be back.”
There was no shortage of cuts proposed in Trump’s budget for 2018, which was released earlier this week.
However, one of the few departments that did not receive a haircut was the Department of Defense.
If the proposed budget ultimately passes in Congress, the DoD would be allocated an extra $54 billion in federal funding – a 10% increase that would be one of the largest one-year defense budget increases in American History.
To put the proposed increase in context, the United States already spends more on defense than the next seven countries combined.
Meanwhile, the additional $54 billion is about the size of the United Kingdom’s entire defense budget.
"Be all you can be"
With over half of all U.S. discretionary spending being put towards the military each year, the U.S. is able to have extensive operations both at home and abroad. Our chart for this week breaks down military personnel based on the latest numbers released by the DoD on February 27, 2017.
In total, excluding civilian support staff, there are about 2.1 million troops. Of those, 1.3 million are on active duty, while about 800,000 are in reserve or part of the National Guard.
On a domestic basis, there are about 1.1 million active troops stationed in the United States, and here’s how they are grouped based on branch of service:
Internationally, there are just under 200,000 troops that are stationed in 177 countries throughout the world.
Here are the top 20 countries they are stationed in, as well as an “Other” category that represents the rest:
In 2015, Politico estimated that there are 800 U.S. bases abroad, and that it costs up to $100 billion annually to maintain this international presence.
SEE ALSO: Trump has a $20 trillion problem
With apologies to the late Republican Senate minority leader Everett Dirksen, $54 billion here, $54 billion there and pretty soon we’re talking real money.
That was the additional amount President Donald Trump asked Congress for in defense spending around the time of his address to both chambers last month and is now part of his budget blueprint, or “skinny budget,” that everybody is talking about.
The eventual increased requests in defense appropriations will likely be well over that amount, but let’s ignore the specific numbers for a minute, as important as they are, to focus on the bigger issue here.
The Democrats’ response to the request was what was instructive. It tells us a lot about how not just Democrats but both parties and most observers see defense spending today, and just what is wrong with that vision.To take a representative example, U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) responded to the request not by judging it as a good or a bad idea, but by treating the military as a Republican interest.
Trump was holding out the fig leaf of fiscal responsibility by proposing additional military spending would be offset by cuts in domestic spending, which his proposed budget has now done. The Maryland Democrat would have none of that. "I can support increases in defense,” Van Hollen said to the Washington Examiner, “but I'm not going to stand by while he guts our investments in education, innovation and infrastructure."
Van Hollen argued that what Americans “need to have” is a “balance between those requests for defense [increases] and for these important domestic economic investments.”
His colleague, U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) called the defense request "the beginning of what will be a complicated and difficult process," which was simply his way of opening bidding.
Coons said that he could “find my way to supporting” the request for Trump’s proposal which “significantly increases national security investments” but he was “gravely concerned” about "savagely cutting a wide range of areas critical to our education, innovation, diplomacy, development and security investments."
When it comes to spending, Trump only proposes. Congress disposes. By the time all the wrangling is done, these probably aren’t even going to be cuts to speak of. In D.C., simply cutting the rate of growth of a department is decried as budgetary savagery.
But this you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours-ism misses something vital. The reason the Democrats feel free to treat military spending as a Republican interest, subject to negotiation, is that Republicans treat it that way too.
Yes it’s called “defense spending.” Yet the amounts appropriated have very little to do with what normal people have in mind when they think of a truly national defense.
According to several polls recently conducted on behalf of the Charles Koch Institute and Center for the National Interest, over half (51 percent) of Americans think that our post 9/11 engagement with the world has made us “less safe.”
A supermajority of Americans (69 percent) think U.S. actions abroad should only be in the service of the “national interest.” And though they usually weren’t aware just how much their country spends on defense every year, an even larger majority (79 percent) said any additional tax revenues should go to domestic spending, not a military buildup.
I do not think that Americans are being cheap here or even shortsighted. Rather they see the problems with our current foreign policy not in terms of spending but of priorities.
My sense is they feel what we are doing has not been working, has been stretching our forces ever thinner, with too many commitments and too few results. And they are right about that.
Washington is currently arguing over how much we should spend on the military to keep the plates spinning, to play whack-a-mole with ISIS or other militant groups that keep multiplying, to chest thump at Russia, to maintain the pretense that we can solve most of the world’s problems.
The voters see that for what it is, and are not impressed. Trump came to Washington offering real change, but his $54 billion answer is simply good money after bad strategy.
Jeremy Lott is a senior fellow at Defense Priorities. He is the founder of three Real Clear Politics websites (on religion, books, and policy) and a small business owner. Lott has authored several books and was the recognized ghostwriter of former Maryland governor Marvin Mandel's autobiography. His work has appeared in hundreds of publications, including Barron's, The Financial Times, The New York Post, and USA Today.
North Korea recently doubled the size of its uranium-enrichment plant and pushed through with the testing of rocket engines that could soon power intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of hitting the US with a nuclear payload, analysts say.
The test came one day after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Independent Journal Review: "The threat of North Korea is imminent. And it has reached a level that we are very concerned about the consequences of North Korea being allowed to continue on this progress it's been making on the development of both weapons and delivery systems."
Nuclear-proliferation experts have told Business Insider that North Korea's eventual goal for its weapons program is to create an ICBM with a thermonuclear warhead that can reach the US mainland.
North Korea does not yet have that capability, and likely won't for years, but its latest high-profile tests show steady progress in that direction.
Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, told Business Insider that the world would change if North Korea achieved its goal of building a weapon that could threaten Americans on US soil.
"North Korea has been perceived in the past as engaging in a nuclear-weapons program as a way to trade for concessions from the US and South Korea," Lamrani said. "But that paradigm doesn't hold anymore — North Korea decided to invest in a nuclear-missile program not to trade it away, but as the ultimate security guarantee and the ultimate deterrent against outside attacks."
As it stands, the US and its allies would face a tremendously difficult task in disabling the North Korean nuclear-weapons program, as hundreds of mobile missile launchers scattered across secret locations in a densely forested, mountainous peninsula would make it nightmarishly complicated to remove in one swift blow.
But Lamrani said the ability to threaten the US with not just one but a salvo of nuclear missiles would represent a loss for the US and further limit options for outsiders to influence Kim Jong Un's regime. North Korea's latest progress toward this feat has deeply troubled US officials and observers.
"North Korea has made such progress now that the US feels that it does not have time anymore," Lamrani said. He added that an ICBM in the hands of Kim would mean the US could no longer credibly threaten North Korea with nuclear force, representing a "point of no return" in multilateral relations.
But although a war with North Korea would be disastrous and potentially cost millions of lives, the window for US intervention is closing fast.
If North Korea developed credible ICBMs, as it may in coming years, the US would be left with three options, according to Lamrani:
1. Continue with diplomacy and sanctions while building up ballistic-missile defense.
2. Cave to North Korea's demands to be seen as a viable state, accept its nuclear program, and recognize the regime internationally.
3. Go to war and risk a nuclear holocaust on US soil, while killing people in North Korea with nuclear arms.
The US currently employs the first option simply because it's the least-worst choice, but Tillerson recently said the US's "strategic patience" with North Korea had ended.
Additionally, recent reports from Arms Control Wonk and Reuters uncovered a complicated network of businesses and obfuscation that the Kim regime uses to rake in millions by selling military radios and other goods, despite sanctions.
Another Reuters report quoted North Korean officials as saying it did not fear or care about US sanctions and that it was planning a preemptive first strike, while its recent tests suggest it's closer than ever to being able to overwhelm US missile defenses.
While the US can build up all the defenses it wants, "missile defense is not a surefire way to negate the threat posed by another country's nuclear-capable ballistic missiles,"Kelsey Davenport, the director of nonproliferation policy and a North Korea expert at the Arms Control Association, told Business Insider in January.
The second option would be to cave to perhaps the most brutal regime on Earth and cement the failure of decades of diplomacy.
The third option is patently unthinkable and unacceptable.
"Every single one of them is not a great option," Lamrani said.
So as North Korea creeps closer to an ICBM, the US must quickly decide whether to act now or to potentially admit diplomatic defeat down the road.
US Navy commanders accused Iran of jeopardizing international navigation by "harassing" warships passing through the Strait of Hormuz and said future incidents could result in miscalculation and lead to an armed clash.
They spoke after the US aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush confronted what one of the commanding officers described as two sets of Iranian Navy fast-attack boats that had approached a US-led, five-vessel flotilla as it entered the Strait on Tuesday on a journey from the Indian Ocean into the Gulf.
It was the first time a US carrier entered the narrow waterway, where up to 30 percent of global oil exports pass annually, since President Donald Trump took office in January pledging a tougher US stance toward Iran.
US commanders said Tuesday's incident, in which the George H.W. Bush sent helicopter gunships to hover over the Iranian speedboats as some came as close as 950 yards (870 meters) away from the aircraft carrier, ended without a shot being fired.
But it underscored growing tension between the United States and Iran since the election of Trump, who has condemned the 2015 nuclear deal that his predecessor Barack Obama and leaders of five other world powers struck with Tehran and labeled the Islamic Republic "the number one terrorist state."
The encounter with Iranian Navy boats occurred as the USS George H.W. Bush was en route to the northern part of the Gulf to participate in US-led air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
"What I don't like about that is they (Iranian boats) were in the middle of international transit waters (while) we had a right to be there as we were exercising freedom of navigation on our way into the Arabian Gulf," Rear Admiral Kenneth Whitesell, commander of the Carrier Strike Group 2, told journalists aboard the aircraft carrier.
"They also had weapons uncovered as some of the cameras were able to tell. They had some of the weapons manned. We also have aerial data that they were arming all of these weapons."
Territorial waters or not?
Whitesell said Iran's position was that the US-led flotilla, which included a Danish frigate and a French destroyer, had breached its territorial waters, which he denied.
There was no immediate comment from Tehran.
In another incident, Iran's Revolutionary Guards said a US Navy ship changed course toward Iranian vessels in the Strait of Hormuz on March 4 and accused Washington of "unprofessional actions...(that) can have irreversible consequences".
A US official told Reuters on March 6 that multiple fast-attack vessels from the Revolutionary Guards had come within 600 yards (550 meters) of the USNS Invincible, a tracking ship, forcing it to change direction.
Years of mutual animosity eased when Washington lifted sanctions on Tehran last year after the deal to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions. But strong differences remain over Iran's ballistic missile program and conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
Captain Will Pennington, commanding officer of the George H.W. Bush, told Reuters that the behavior of the Iranian navy had become "more aggressive and less predictable".
He added, "(They have) every right to come out and see who we are and query what our intentions are...It is the method with which they do that which is unprofessional and adds greater risk to miscalculation in our need to maneuver the ship, and often presents a risk to the merchant traffic that's around us."
Pennington accused the Iranian Navy of threatening one of the helicopters that flew over the Iranian boats as they approached the flotilla, sometimes at high speed.
"I would say that approaching at a high rate of speed while loading your weapon and while essentially threatening a helicopter that is part of our group while we are behaving completely in line with international law..., I wouldn't call it a grave threat, that would be an overstatement, but it is certainly unprofessional behavior," he said.
The last serious naval incident was in January when a US destroyer fired three warning shots at four Iranian fast-attack vessels near the Strait after they closed in at high speed and disregarded repeated requests to slow down.
While still a presidential candidate in September, Trump vowed that any Iranian vessels that harassed the US Navy in the Gulf would be "shot out of the water".
The United States on Wednesday urged coalition partners to step up efforts to defeat Islamic State militants as top officials from 68 nations gathered in Washington to assess the fight to retake Iraq's second largest city and advance on the extremists' self-declared Syrian capital.
"I recognize there are many pressing challenges in the Middle East, but defeating ISIS is the United States' number one goal in the region," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the coalition's first ministerial gathering since President Donald Trump took office.
"As we've said before, when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. We must continue to keep our focus on the most urgent matter at hand," Tillerson said.
Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis were hosting Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Ababi and foreign ministers from the coalition partners at the State Department to explore new ideas to expand the fight against IS in the Iraqi city of Mosul and ready the operation to push the militants from Raqqa, Syria.
They also are preparing for the group's defeat by lining up humanitarian and reconstruction assistance.
"We are at the stage of completely decimating Daesh," al-Abadi said, using the Arabic acronym for IS.
The meeting occurred amid the latest manifestation of the accelerating, U.S.-guided military campaign. The Pentagon said it provided an airlift for Syrian fighters taking part in an offensive underway in Tabqa, west of Raqqa. A spokesman said U.S. military advisers are on the ground in the Tabqa area to help coordinate the operation, which aims to block IS fighters from western approaches to Raqqa.
Tillerson alluded to the intensified campaign, but said the Trump administration was still refining its strategy.
"A more defined course of action in Syria is still coming together," he said. "But I can say that the United States will increase our pressure on ISIS and al-Qaida and will work to establish interim zones of stability, through cease-fires, to allow refugees to return home."
The reference to "zones of stability" appeared to stop short of "safe zones," which the U.S. military has been extremely reluctant to commit to enforcing in Syria, even as Trump and others have raised the idea at various times.
Nothing Tillerson outlined departed significantly from the Obama administration's approach, which focused on using local forces to retake territory along with efforts to disrupt IS recruitment and financing, and the blueprint of the multilateral effort seemed unchanged. The strategy is complicated in Syria, where a partnership with Kurdish forces has prompted difficult discussions with Turkey, which sees the militants as a national security threat.
Tillerson said the United States would play its part and pay its fair share of the overall operation. But he said other nations, particularly those which have faced IS or IS-inspired attacks, must do more. He said increased intelligence and information sharing could overcome traditional rivalries between difference agencies and governments, and advocated an enhanced online effort to halt the spread of extremist views, especially as the Islamic State group loses ground in Iraq and Syria.
As IS becomes more encircled, the mission will change. Officials expect in the coming months to see the dissipation of surviving fighters into underground cells that could plan and mount attacks throughout the Middle East, South and Central Asia, Europe, South America and the United States.
"As we stabilize areas encompassing ISIS's phony physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria, we also must prevent their seeds of hatred from taking root elsewhere," Tillerson said. "We must ensure ISIS cannot gain or maintain footholds in new regions of the world. We must fight ISIS online as aggressively as we would on the ground. A digital caliphate must not flourish in the place of a physical one."
The officials in Washington also hope to figure out how best to deal with the inevitably messy humanitarian and political aftermath of the anticipated IS battlefield defeat. There are widespread fears of chaos, such as what emerged after NATO's intervention in Libya in 2011, that could further fracture the region's deep ethnic and religious splits, and complicate the stated goal of preserving the Syrian and Iraqi states.
Lockheed Martin built the F-35 with integrated stealth to safely navigate the most heavily contested airspaces on earth, but if the situation calls for it, the F-35 can blow its cover and go "beast mode."
Jeff Babione, general manager of the F-35 program, told reporters at Lockheed Martin's DC area office that at different stages in a conflict, the F-35's different potential weapons load outs suit it for different missions.
Down to the ten thousandth of an inch, the exterior of the F-35 has been precisely machined to baffle radars. This means holding 5,000 pounds of bombs internally, and only opening up the bomb bays at the exact moment of a strike to stay hidden.
The stealth makes it ideal for penetrating defended airspaces and knocking out defenses, but after the careful work of surface-to-air missile hunting is done, expect the F-35 to go beast.
“When we don’t necessarily need to be stealthy, we can carry up to 18,000 pounds of bombs," said Babione. “Whether it’s the first day of the war when we need the stealth, or the second or third … whenever the F-35 is called, it can do the mission.”
The fifth-generation joint strike fighter, first announced in 2001, intends to bring the military a family of aircraft that can take on multiple roles, including air-to-air combat, air-to-ground attacks, and providing unparalleled intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.
Though the F-35's production has been plagued by cost and schedule overruns, the US Air Force and Marine Corps' variants hit initial operational capability in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Currently the US Navy is battling a nose gear issue with its variant of the F-35 that could delay operational capability until 2019.
WASHINGTON — The US Navy’s 10 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers have long been the envy of the world with unrivaled ability to project power on any shore anywhere on the globe — but they’re in danger.
US adversaries — China specifically — have purpose-built very long range missiles known as “carrier killers” which outrange the carriers by a healthy 300 or so miles.
But thanks to Lockheed Martin’s legendary Skunkworks, which developed the SR-71 Blackbird in 32 months, that problem may soon get answered with the MQ-25A tanker drone.
Rob Weiss, general manager of Skunkworks, told reporters at Lockheed Martin’s Arlington, Virginia office this week that the Department of Defense and Lockheed were "frankly doing all the right things to accelerate this program and get it in the hands of the warfighter sooner rather than later.”
It’s no secret that new weapons acquisition in the US military can take a ridiculously long time, but Weiss, a Navy man of the 1980s, feels the need for speed.
The addition of a flying, unmanned tanker that could have some stealth integrated will “provide more legs, more reach for both the F-18 and the F-35,” said Weiss.
With China’s unilateral land grabs in the South China Sea and its burgeoning navy and missile force prowess, Weiss finds it “imperative, frankly, to national security” that the US extend the range of its carrier strike aircraft. Giving the US Navy's jets more range means the carriers can stay out very long range missiles in China and Russia's inventories.
The MQ-25A stingray will be the Navy’s first carrier-based tanker and carrier-based drone, but in the future we could see drones take on a bigger role, according to Weiss.
“It’s up to the Navy to find what they want beyond an MQ-25,” said Weiss. "It starts with this tanker. What may come after that, we’re going to listen to our customer and see what they say.”
But whatever the US military needs, Weiss and Skunkworks will be there to quickly put some of the best minds in the industry to work.
Weiss said the Navy should put out requests for proposals on building the MQ-25 by this summer.
The offensive to destroy ISIS in Syria took a big step forward recently with US military advisers, helicopters, and artillery helping position a force of about 500 soldiers near a strategic damn outside of Raqqa, ISIS's Syrian capital.
The US military, along with Kurdish forces and the multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Forces rebel group, have moved to put a stranglehold on Raqqa with shelling, air support, and ground forces at the last route in and out of the city, according to a press release.
Operation Inherent Resolve, the 68-nation mission to destroy ISIS, flew in fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed rebel group, behind enemy lines to a strategic dam.
“It takes a special breed of warrior to pull of an airborne operation or air assault behind enemy lines,” Col. Joe Scrocca, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve told the Times.
"Seizing Tabqah Dam will isolate Raqqah from three sides and give the SDF the strategic advantage and launching point needed for the liberation of the city," said the release. But while the US says they're mainly backing local forces, they seem poised to take on a more active role with conventional forces fighting ISIS on the ground in Raqqa.
The Pentagon has been considering sending as many as 1,000 ground troops to help take back Raqqa from ISIS, which would signal a reversal of the Obama-era policy to fight ISIS via train and equip methods and airstrikes.
The coalition says they've conducted more than 300 airstrikes around Raqqa in the past month.
Syrian Democratic Forces with their Syrian Arab Coalition fighters prepare for an offensive to liberate Tabqah Dam from ISIS Mar 22 in Syria pic.twitter.com/2Ho1SQYhL1— Inherent Resolve (@CJTFOIR) March 23, 2017
Raqqa, situated along the Euphrates river in the mostly barren Easter Syria has been ISIS' main Syrian stronghold since 2014.
The US, Inherent Resolve coalition partners, and local forces have been involved in a massive air and ground campaign to rid the country of the terrorist group while simultaneously carrying out similar operations in neighboring Iraq.
Syria: Our partners have rolled back ISIS territorial gains to the East, North, & West of Raqqah, capturing over 7,400 sq km of territory.— OIR Spokesman (@OIRSpox) March 15, 2017
A spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
North Korea has made preparations for yet another missile test within the coming days, US officials have told Fox News.
“The test could come as early as the end of the month,” said an unnamed official. Another official told Fox that a US WC-135 Constant Phoenix "nuclear sniffer" plane would patrol the area to detect possible nuclear activity.
The Pentagon, as well as its Japanese and South Korean counterparts, has been closely monitoring North Korea after a string of high-profile and alarming moves within its nuclear infrastructure.
Most recently, Japan detected two missile launches in North Korea that exploded "within seconds" after takeoff, CNN reported. Before that, North Korea tested a "saturation attack"— a salvo of four missiles meant to overwhelm US and allied missile defenses — with much more success.
Jeffrey Lewis, founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk, told Business Insider that North Korea's ultimate intention with its nuclear program is to create a thermonuclear weapon that can hit the mainland US.
The increased pace of tests in 2017 shows North Korea is perhaps more serious than ever about hitting this goal, which it is increasingly moving closer to achieving.
Meanwhile, the US has openly floated military action against North Korea, which experts tell Business Insider could easily cost millions of lives and result in the first use of nuclear weapons since World War II.
The prison camps of Nazi Germany existed for 12 years before their remaining survivors were freed after World War II. In the years that followed, many learned of horrifying conditions, torture, and millions murdered by Hitler's regime, and people swore never to let it happen again.
But North Korea has established its system of prison camps where an untold number have died amid "unspeakable atrocities" comparable to what the Nazis did, according to a preliminary report from the UN.
"I believe you will be very disturbed and distressed by it and that you will have a reaction similar to those of [US] General Eisenhower and the others who came upon the camps in postwar Europe," head investigator Michael Kirby told Reuters in 2013.
On Friday, the UN's human-rights body agreed to strengthen its ongoing investigation of abuses inside the Hermit Kingdom. That investigation will be used in a "future accountability process" if the country's leaders are ever held to account.
About 200,000 people are currently imprisoned in these camps, while some 400,000 people have died in them, according to reports from Amnesty International and the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.
North Korea has repeatedly denied such reports, and it boycotted the UN debate on Friday.
But Kim Jong Un cannot hide from satellite imagery and the increasing number of escapees who have testified about the regime's abuse.
We have gathered some details about the camps along with satellite images and a set of unconfirmed illustrations supposedly done by a defector that hint at the terror inside.
Warning: The following content is disturbing.
In a country of 25 million people, up to 200,000 have reportedly "disappeared" into brutal concentration camps found throughout the country.
Former prisoners say conditions are so bad that 20% to 25% of the prison population dies every year. (Note: This is the first of multiple illustrations supposedly made by a defector who spent time in the prisons.)
The North uses "guilt by association" to lock up entire families just for knowing someone convicted of "wrong thought."
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Each year, the State Department issues dozens of advisories with the intent of keeping Americans safe as they travel abroad. What countries are targeted by these advisories, and what risks do Americans face by visiting them? Are State Department advisories effective in keeping American travelers safe?
We decided to investigate what are the most dangerous countries for American to visit as measured by State Department warnings and also by actual deaths. We used data from Priceonomics customer data.world, a platform that ties many different data sets together so it's easy to analyze them (you can download their dataset here).
We found that Mexico, Mali, and Israel have been targeted by the most travel advisories in recent years, but that Americans are more likely to face life-threatening danger in Thailand, Pakistan, and Honduras. Indeed, warnings and deadly violence are correlated on the whole. And fortunately, some travelers - at least those headed to the Philippines or Egypt - seem to heed these advisories, as those countries see dropoffs in tourism following warnings.
We began by identifying the countries that are most often targeted by U.S. State Department travel advisories. The State Department has multiple mechanisms for advising American travelers, but we focused just on Travel Warnings, which are issued when lasting turmoil in a country poses such a danger that the State Department discourages any travel there at all.
We filtered out warnings that had been issued for natural disasters, then ranked countries based on the number of Travel Warnings issued against them in an 8-year period between 2009 and 2017. We display the top 25 below.
Mexico tops the list with 28 warnings in an 8-year period. It’s worth noting that these warnings are regionally specific, targeting sites where crime syndicates are particularly active. Popular tourist destinations like Mexico City and the Yucatán peninsula (including Cancún) are generally regarded as safe.
Most other countries on this ranking are participants in ongoing international conflicts (e.g., Israel, Pakistan, Afghanistan), or are sites in which extremist groups regularly carry out terrorist attacks (e.g., Mali, Nigeria, Syria).
North Korea is an interesting exception, as the government itself presents a danger to American travelers. According to the State Department, foreigners are liable to be jailed for unspecified reasons, or for seemingly innocuous infractions like interacting with the locals or taking unauthorized photos.
How do State Department warnings square with the actual likelihood of crime abroad? Reliable, global data on crime is difficult to come by, but the State Department tracks the incidence and causes of American deaths abroad. We used that dataset to identify countries where Americans are most likely to experience life-threatening danger while traveling.
In the table below, we rank the foreign countries in which the most Americans were killed between 2009 and 2016. Before ranking, we filtered the data to include only homicides, executions, deaths in terrorist attacks, and drug-related deaths.
In general, a violent death abroad is extremely unlikely. Between 2009 and 2013, 1,151 Americans - out of a population of 316 million - were killed abroad. For comparison, 15,809 homicides occurred in the U.S. in 2014 alone.
Of the 1,356 killings that occurred abroad, 1,193 (88%) happened in the 25 countries listed above. And just one country, Mexico, accounted for 50% of those deaths.
Of course, more Americans die in Mexico because vastly more Americans travel to Mexico than any other country. This holds true to a lesser degree for some of the other countries near the top of this ranking, including the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.
With that in mind, we adjusted our ranking to account for the volume of tourism from the U.S. We calculated the number of Americans murdered in a country per 100,000 American tourists, using travel numbers from a dataset gathered by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. We excluded any country that received fewer than 100,000 American visitors between 2009 and 2016.
Adjusting for travel volume shuffles our ranking, if not drastically changing it; 16 of the 25 countries listed here also appear on our ranking of countries by absolute number of American deaths.
Pakistan and Thailand jumped to the top of the list, each with a handful of deaths in a relatively small pool of tourists.
Surprisingly, there is only modest overlap between this ranking and the set of countries receiving the most travel warnings. Of the top 10 countries ranked here, only 4 — Pakistan, the Philippines, Nigeria, and Mexico — were among the top 25 countries targeted by travel warnings.
This led us to wonder about the connection between State Department warnings and American death abroad. Does the State Department issue more warnings for a country if Americans are more likely to be killed there? To find out, we correlated the number of Travel Warnings issued for each country with number of Americans (per 100,000 travelers) killed there.
On the whole, there is a significant relationship between the number of American deaths abroad per capita and the number of travel warnings a country receives (r = 0.56, p = <.001).
But within this chart, we identified some interesting patterns. In some countries, the number of Travel Warnings a country receives does scale with the number of deaths. In others, no warnings are issued even while the risk of death is relatively high. In still others, many warnings are issued even though most Americans pass through the country intact.
In which countries are warnings well correlated with the risk of death? In which are they not? In the rankings below, we identify 5 countries that exemplify each pattern.
A relatively high number of American travelers die in the countries in the left-most ranking above. Accordingly, these nations are often targeted by State Department warnings.
The center ranking features countries where warnings are “under-issued;” the risk of death is relatively high for Americans, but no warnings were issued in the 8-year period we examined. This ranking consists mainly of Central and South American countries where roughly 1 in every 100,000 U.S. travelers will be killed.
Finally, the countries in the right-most ranking are often targeted by warnings, but Americans have a low risk of facing life-threatening danger while visiting them. This may have to do with a regional pattern of unrest; in Turkey, for instance, tourists visiting the southeast may be subject to terrorist attacks spilling over from Syria, while travelers to Istanbul are comparatively safe.
Alternatively, few Americans may die in these countries because they are heeding the high number of Travel Warnings these nations receive. This raises the question of how travel advisories impact tourist behavior. Does traffic to a country drop after the State Department targets it with a Travel Warning?
To find out, we again put the Bureau of Transportation Statistics dataset to work, this time comparing travel numbers in the 6-month periods immediately preceding and immediately following the issuance of a Travel Warning. For this analysis, we only considered countries that had received at least 3 warnings.
Egypt sees the largest drop-off in travel after a warning is issued with a 34% decrease in travel. Thailand travel appears to follow a similar trend; when warnings are issued, American travel to Thailand drops by 15%.
Travel declines modestly in Israel and Venezuela after the issuance of a warning, even though neither country lands a spot on our top 25 nations by American deaths per capita.
And strangely, travel to Ukraine, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia rises by more than 10% after a warning is issued.
Overall, American don’t appear to be especially sensitive to State Department warnings. Of the 16 countries we featured here, double-digit travel change was seen for seen for only 5, and those changes could be driven by many other factors.
For simplicity, we restricted our analysis to just one advisory mechanism - the U.S. State Department Travel Warning - and one outcome measure - American deaths abroad. It’s possible different trends would have emerged if we had considered other data sources. But given these constraints, what did we see?
In absolute terms, more American tourists are killed in Mexico than in any other foreign country. This is partly owing to the strong flow of tourism between the U.S. and Mexico; when figures are adjusted to account for the volume of tourism, Pakistan rises to the top of the heap, with roughly 4 deaths per 100,000 travelers.
Despite this, Thailand does not rank among the top 25 countries for travel warnings. In general, warnings are not strongly correlated with American deaths abroad: countries like Israel, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia are relatively safe despite being subject to numerous warnings, and the converse is true in Belize, Guatemala, and Guyana.
Even warnings that are well correlated with violence are only valuable if travelers heed them, and tourism appears largely insensitive to travel advisories. In approximately half the countries we considered, tourism shifted by no more than 2% after issuance of a warning.
On Saturday, President Donald Trump hosted 25 living recipients of the Medal of Honor at the White House in recognition of the rarely-celebrated Medal of Honor Day.
But being awarded the the nation's highest military award doesn't happen often. The medal has only been conferred just 18 times after more than a decade of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Many recipients lose their lives in the act that the award recognizes.
But some, like retired Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter — who received the award in June 2014 — survive and learn from the president that they are being given the highest possible recognition for their courage.
So how does that discussion actually go? Fortunately, that moment when Carpenter was notified by then-President Barack Obama was captured on video in 2014.
"Kyle, this is Barack Obama, how you doing?" Obama said in a phone call to Carpenter at his home in South Carolina."It's my pleasure to let you know that based on the recommendation of the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of Defense, I've conferred the Medal of Honor to you for your courageous actions in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom."
Carpenter, 27, was awarded the Medal of Honor for diving on an enemy hand grenade that landed between him and a fellow Marine while posted on a rooftop near Marjah, Afghanistan in 2010. The action saved the life of his best friend, but the grenade peppered his body with shrapnel, ruptured his eardrums, and took his right eye.
The president was very appreciative during the phone call, Carpenter told Business Insider in a phone interview. "He told me that one of his greatest pleasures [of] being president was being the Commander-in-Chief," Carpenter said.
You can watch the video from Defense Imagery below (phone call starts around 5:00):
Iran denied on Saturday U.S. accusations that its fast-attack boats were "harassing" warships at the mouth of the Gulf, and said Washington would be responsible for any clashes in the key oil shipping route.
U.S. Navy commanders earlier accused Iran of jeopardizing international navigation by "harassing" warships passing through the Strait of Hormuz and said future incidents could result in miscalculation and lead to an armed clash.
They spoke after the U.S. aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush confronted what one of the commanding officers described as two sets of Iranian Navy fast-attack boats that had approached a U.S.-led, five-vessel flotilla as it entered the Strait on Tuesday on a journey from the Indian Ocean into the Gulf.
It was the first time a U.S. carrier entered the narrow waterway, where up to 30 percent of global oil exports pass, since President Donald Trump took office in January pledging a tougher U.S. stance towards Iran.
In Tehran, Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of staff of Iran's armed forces, said the U.S. claims of the confrontation in the Gulf were based on "false reports or ulterior motives", the state news agency IRNA reported.
"We emphasize that the Americans would be responsible for any unrest in the Persian Gulf, and again warn that the U.S. military must change its behavior," Jazayeri said, without elaborating.
U.S. commanders earlier said Tuesday's incident, in which the George H.W. Bush sent helicopter gunships to hover over the Iranian speedboats as some came as close as 950 yards (870 meters) from the aircraft carrier, ended without a shot being fired.
But it underscored growing tension between the United States and Iran since the election of Trump, who has condemned the 2015 nuclear deal that his predecessor Barack Obama and leaders of five other world powers struck with Tehran and labeled the Islamic Republic "the number one terrorist state".
The encounter with Iranian Navy boats occurred as the USS George H.W. Bush was en route to the northern part of the Gulf to participate in U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
Earlier in March, Iran disputed the U.S. account of another confrontation in the Strait of Hormuz between its speedboats and a U.S. Navy vessel.