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- 06/14/18--03:11: _Israel's Netanyahu ...
- 06/14/18--04:43: _It looks like North...
- 06/14/18--10:25: _Trump may have actu...
- 06/15/18--09:43: _Beijing responds to...
- 06/18/18--10:10: _North Korea reporte...
- 06/18/18--13:41: _These are the 25 mo...
- 06/19/18--09:19: _Mike Pompeo reporte...
- 06/22/18--08:53: _Trump wants to send...
- 06/26/18--02:37: _China's navy holds ...
- 06/28/18--10:54: _China looks set to ...
- 06/29/18--06:52: _Chinese President X...
- 07/03/18--12:03: _24 military movies ...
- 07/11/18--02:24: _Trump slams a weake...
- 07/11/18--06:09: _Trump and Merkel ar...
- 07/11/18--11:27: _North Korea reporte...
- 07/12/18--12:30: _Russia admits defea...
- 07/13/18--09:15: _The US Navy just qu...
- 07/20/18--02:58: _Trump doubles down ...
- 06/12/18--13:01: _Confusion erupts ov...
- 06/14/18--02:58: _Trump emerges as a ...
- Israel has attacked Iranian-backed Shi'ite Muslim militias in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.
- He cast such actions as potentially helping to stem a Syrian Sunni Muslim refugee exodus to Europe.
- Netanyahu accused Iran, which has been helping Damascus beat back a seven-year-old rebellion, of bringing in 80,000 Shi'ite fighters from countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan to mount attacks against Israel and "convert" Syria's Sunni majority.
- He said Iran's actions could bring about a religious war that would send more refugees abroad.
- US President Donald Trump left experts baffled when he said North Korea had agreed to destroy a missile-engine testing site, but it now looks as if North Korea is making good on that.
- North Korea says it will destroy a large-scale facility in Tongchang-ri, in North Pyongan Province, that was used to test engines for the Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported.
- The Hwasong-14 was the first North Korean missile that experts said could hit the US mainland with a nuclear payload.
- Measures like the destruction of testing sites in North Korea, if monitored by US and international experts, could build the kind of trust needed to carry out denuclearization.
- President Donald Trump said the nuclear threat from North Korea was over despite having completed little to no work on actual denuclearization.
- The US was headed to war with North Korea over their long range missile tests, and Trump getting North Korea to halt the tests stopped it, an Obama admin official told Business Insider
- Trump's joint statement with North Korea paid lip service to denuclearization, which the US's Asian allies wanted, but the real success of the meeting may have been getting North Korea to freeze testing.
- South Korean media now reports North Korea is getting ready to destroy an ICBM engine testing facility.
- Beijing has carried out anti-aircraft drills with missiles fired against drone targets over the South China Sea after the US challenged it by flying B-52 bombers across the region.
- China's drills were intended to simulate fending off an aerial attack on unspecified islands within the waterway.
- Typically, the US carries out its challenges by sailing warships, but recently it used nuclear-capable B-52s in a marked escalation.
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly joked with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he was still trying to kill him.
- While Pompeo was the head of the CIA, North Korea accused the organization of trying to assassinate Kim.
- Pompeo dropped heavy hints in July 2017, right after North Korea began testing missiles that could hit the US, that he'd like to "separate" Kim from power.
- But when the two met they reportedly immediately laughed about it, and Kim would later say Pompeo had "guts."
- President Donald Trump is looking at sending the US military into space with a newly invented service, the Space Force.
- Combat in space is not only likely in a war scenario, but could prove highly devastating for those on earth.
- Most of the fighting would likely involve missiles taking out satellites, and possibly killer satellites and lasers shooting each other down.
- But a lot of the fighting would be things the US military already does, so many think it's a dumb idea.
- A formation of Chinese warships has been holding daily combat drills for more than a week in waters near Taiwan, China's state media said on Tuesday.
- "The drills tested the military and training abilities of warship, aviation and coastal defense troops, via organizing real combat training in multiple areas of the ocean," it said.
- China claims Taiwan as its own and has never renounced the use of force to bring under its control what it sees as a wayward province.
- The US Navy has spent more than a decade and $500 million developing a railgun — but China looks set to beat it to the punch.
- China has already put a railgun on a ship, which is further than the US has gotten.
- The railgun as a concept has some very tricky problems China may not overcome, but even if China doesn't, completing the project would embarrass the US.
- China and the US are competing on the global stage, and if China looks as if it builds technology quicker, that's a major win.
- China is committed cannot give up "even one inch" of territory in the South China Sea, Chinese President Xi Jinping told U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday during his first visit to Beijing.
- Xi's remarks underscored deep-rooted areas of tension in Sino-U.S. ties, particularly over what the Pentagon views as China's militarization of the South China Sea, a vital transit route for world trade.
- Both countries' common interests far outweigh their differences, but on territorial issues there can be no concessions, Xi said, without referring to specific areas.
- 07/03/18--12:03: 24 military movies to watch over the 4th of July
- President Donald Trump on Wednesday followed up on a week of bashing NATO allies on Twitter with an in-person tirade against Germany.
- He said Russia basically controlled Germany because of German energy dependence on Moscow.
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel has backed a massive pipeline that would allow increased consumption of Russian energy.
- Russia's main source of revenue is energy exports, and Europe is its main client.
- By funding Russia, Europe allows the kind of aggression from the Kremlin that NATO was designed to stop.
- Germany's military has serious readiness problems, and Merkel has not prioritized fixing them.
- President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel appear headed for a one-on-one confrontation on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels.
- The two world leaders are expected to meet soon. Trump reportedly plans to bring up his contention that Russia controls Germany with its energy dominance.
- Merkel has already fired back at Trump, saying that she lived in Germany under Soviet control and the government today is different and that Germany is a solid US and NATO ally.
- But Merkel has a difficult political situation at home, and Germany has not yet met some of its NATO commitments.
- A North Korean diplomat reportedly told an Israeli diplomat in 1999 that Pyongyang would provide ballistic missile technology to Iran unless it paid $1 billion.
- North Korea has nuclear weapons, but it's deterred from using them because it would be nuked right back in a more massive response.
- But if North Korea sells nuclear weapons and related technology, another rogue state or terror organization may feel less restrained to actually use them.
- Even if North Korea doesn't sell weapons, it can still blackmail countries like Israel with its nuclear leverage.
- Russia announced earlier this month that the Su-57, its proposed entry into the world of fifth-generation stealth fighters, will not see mass production.
- The jet had some promising capabilities in combat, but design and production difficulties made it a difficult project with limited export potential.
- This move represents a failure for Russia to manage its huge defense budget and breadth of projects and to find buyers for its version of a jet meant to take on US stealth fighters.
- The US Navy deployed the USS Essex, a small-deck aircraft carrier, to the Western Pacific with a deck full of US Marine Corps F-35Bs Joint Strike Fighters — but it did it with secrecy.
- The US typically hypes up F-35 deployments, but this time it was silent, perhaps signaling a big shift.
- The US has major adversaries in the Western Pacific and may be shifting to a more operational approach to keeping them in check, rather than using media attention.
- President Donald Trump has said he is considering second meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
- But meetings with those leaders so far have proved damaging to the US government.
- Trump appeared to take Russia's word over that of his own security services regarding Russian election meddling.
- Trump has also said he believes North Korea is denuclearizing — because Kim told him so.
- US intelligence reports paint a different picture.
- Trump's meetings with Putin and Kim were panned by critics including some Republicans and have driven some members of the intelligence community to the brink of resignation.
- Many former top intelligence officials who can't see why Trump would seem to side so heavily against the US now openly ponder whether Trump is a "controlled spy."
- President Donald Trump expressed intent to no longer conduct "very provocative" joint military exercises with South Korea.
- A top Republican senator claims Vice President Mike Pence backtracked that commitment in a closed-door meeting Tuesday, which Pence's office disputed.
- The senator then clarified Pence's comments.
- North Koreans are getting a new look at U.S. President Donald Trump now that his summit with leader Kim Jong Un is over and it's a far cry from the "dotard" label their government slapped on him last year.
- The state media's representation of the summit and Trump is extremely important because it gives the North Korean population, which has only limited access to other news sources, an idea not just of what's going on but also of how the government expects them to respond.
- The post-summit transformation of North Korea's official version of Trump shows he's now being portrayed by the state media looking serious and almost regal.
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel has attacked Iranian-backed Shi'ite Muslim militias in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday, casting such actions as potentially helping to stem a Syrian Sunni Muslim refugee exodus to Europe.
Israeli officials have previously disclosed scores of air strikes within Syria to prevent suspected arms transfers to Lebanon's Shi'ite Hezbollah guerrillas or Iranian military deployments.
But they have rarely given detail on the operations, or described non-Lebanese militiamen as having been targeted.
Netanyahu accused Iran, which has been helping Damascus beat back a seven-year-old rebellion, of bringing in 80,000 Shi'ite fighters from countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan to mount attacks against Israel and "convert" Syria's Sunni majority.
"That is a recipe for a re-inflammation of another civil war - I should say a theological war, a religious war - and the sparks of that could be millions more that go into Europe and so on ... And that would cause endless upheaval and terrorism in many, many countries," Netanyahu told an international security forum.
"Obviously we are not going to let them do it. We'll fight them. By preventing that - and we have bombed the bases of this, these Shi'ite militias - by preventing that, we are also offering, helping the security of your countries, the security of the world."
Netanyahu did not elaborate. About half Syria's pre-war 22 million population has been displaced by the fighting, with hundreds of thousands of refugees making it to Europe.
Syria’s population is mostly Sunni Muslim. President Bashar al-Assad is from the Alawite religious minority, often considered an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.
Under recent deals between Assad's government and mainly Sunni rebels, insurgents have left long-besieged areas sometimes in exchange for Shi'ite residents moving from villages surrounded by insurgents.
The political opposition to Assad says the deals amount to forced demographic change and deliberate displacement of his enemies away from the main cities of western Syria. The Damascus government says the deals allow it to take back control and to restore services in the wrecked towns.
US President Donald Trump left experts baffled when after emerging from his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday he said North Korea had agreed to destroy a missile-engine testing site, but it now looks as if North Korea is making good on that.
"They secured the commitment to destroy the missile-engine testing site. That was not in your agreement," Trump said in a press conference after the summit, referring to a joint statement that made no mention of concrete steps toward denuclearization.
"I got that after we signed the agreement," Trump continued. "I said do me a favor. You have this missile-engine testing site. We know where it is because of the heat. It is incredible the equipment we have, to be honest with you. I said can you close it up. He's going to close it up."
Trump's statement at the press conference confused many and may have even divulged a bit much on the military intelligence side, but now reports of the details of the testing site have surfaced.
North Korea says it will destroy a large-scale facility in Tongchang-ri, in North Pyongan Province, that was used to test engines for the Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported Thursday.
The Hwasong-14 was the first North Korean missile that experts said could hit the US mainland with a nuclear payload.
Diplomacy in action
The Chosun Ilbo quoted a diplomatic source as saying that "Kim promised Trump during their summit on Tuesday to dismantle this facility."
"Kim Jong Un must have won a number of major concessions from Trump in other sectors in return for destroying such a major facility," the source continued.
World leaders have praised the summit as a step toward peace and reducing tensions. Measures like the destruction of testing sites in North Korea, if monitored by US and international experts, could build the kind of trust needed to carry out earnest denuclearization.
President Donald Trump left the Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and declared the nuclear threat from Pyongyang over without even getting close to a concrete denuclearization process from North Korea.
But in doing so, Trump may have been heeding a warning from former President Barack Obama and stopping a possibly nuclear war with North Korea in the process.
"Before taking office people were assuming that we were going to War with North Korea. President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. No longer - sleep well tonight!"Trump tweeted.
In November 2016 when President-elect Trump visited Obama in the White House, news outlets widely reported that Obama told him that North Korea would be his biggest threat, and Trump seems to confirm that here.
But the threat from North Korea wasn't its simple possession of nuclear weapons. North Korea first demonstrated nuclear capability in 2006, and had nukes throughout Obama's entire presidency, but Obama responded only with "strategic patience."
Instead, according to former US ambassador to Turkey, James Jeffrey, who worked for Obama, the warning centered around North Korea getting missiles that could strike the US, something US intelligence officials estimated would happen during Trump's term.
"A nuclear strike capability against the US changes the entire strategic equation in a way that just having nukes that can be exploded in South Korea and Japan does not," Jeffrey told Business Insider.
"It decouples the US deterrence and retaliation capability against any North Korean attack."
Basically, if North Korea has missiles that can hit the US, then it can ask Washington a terrifying question: Will you trade Seattle for Seoul?
The US has, for years, said its alliance with South Korea and Japan are "ironclad," but according to Jeffrey, that's diplomatic speak that masks a dark truth everyone already knows: The US would not take a nuclear attack from North Korea on the chin to save an allied city.
The US planned to attack North Korea if their tests continued
So, as former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster posited, having an ICBM would allow North Korea to attack South Korea without the US stepping in.
An ICBM "changes any attempt by North Korea to reunify the peninsula," said Jeffrey. Kim "can undertake a military or political pressure campaign on South Korea and America’s hands will be tied because we don’t want to risk losing Seattle for Seoul," said Jeffrey. "Thats what Trump was reacting to."
Trump was "basically told [by Obama] if North Korea continued their tests, and they need more tests to have a survivable weapon, that would we would strike. Probably a limited strike," said Jeffrey.
Although North Korea managed to display it had missiles that could reach the US, it didn't prove that it could mount a nuclear weapon on the missiles, that the missiles could hit an intended target, or that the warheads could survive reentering the earth's atmosphere at many times the speed of sound.
The only way North Korea could really prove it had real ICBMs would be to shoot a real, armed one and detonate it over the Pacific, or show off their accuracy by shooting missiles just short of some US territory. Once Trump took office and North Korea's missile system ramped up, they threatened repeatedly to do both of those tests.
According to Jeffrey, either one would have led to war.
Frank Aum, the Pentagon's senior advisor for North Korea under Obama, confirmed to Business Insider that there was a "general understanding that a red line would be an atmospheric nuclear test over the ocean or an [intermediate-range ballistic missile] test that lands in the vicinity of Guam."
Denuclearization a red herring, but Trump caught the bigger fish
With what Trump has done, he can claim they’re on the road to denuclearization, which would be good if we get it," said Jeffrey. But Trump's real victory, the one that eliminated North Korea's real nuclear threat towards the US, was freezing their move towards ICBMs, he said.
Denuclearization was "not really what they were out to do," said Jeffrey, who said Trump operated under the guise of denuclearization to reassure South Korea and Japan, who remain under threat of North Korean nuclear attacks even without ICBMs.
Instead, Jeffrey said Trump went in with the narrow goal of getting North Korea to stop ICBM and nuclear weapon testing, and he got it. This explains why Trump settled for the weak joint statement that provided no concrete language on removing nuclear weapons.
"My feeling is that we’re in a process that is good, the process of psychological, military pressure, and economic sanctions has dealt pretty damn effectively with the problem Obama gave Trump," said Jeffrey.
What was the one North Korea concession Trump talked up after the Singapore summit? The impending closure of a missile engine testing site, which on Thursday South Korean media identified as a testing site for ICBMs — perhaps Trump's real goal in all of this.
Beijing has carried out anti-aircraft drills with missiles fired against drone targets over the South China Sea after the US challenged it by flying B-52 bombers across the region.
China's drills were intended to simulate fending off an aerial attack on unspecified islands within the waterway. Beijing lays unilateral claim to almost all of the South China Sea, a passage that sees trillions in annual shipping.
Chinese missiles, deployed to the South China Sea despite previous promises from Beijing not to militarize the islands, fired at drones flying overhead to simulate combat, the South China Morning Post reported.
China struggles with realistic training for its armed forces and has been criticized for overly scripted drills. Beijing's lack of experience in real combat exacerbates this weakness.
The US and Beijing frequently square off over the South China Sea, where Beijing operates in open defiance of international law after losing an arbitration against the Philippines in 2016. In late May, the US military issued a stark warning to Beijing when a general reminded China that the US military has "has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific, taking down small islands."
Typically, the US carries out its challenges by sailing warships, usually guided missile destroyers, near the shores of its islands in a signal that the US does not recognize China's claims. China always reacts harshly, accusing the US of challenging its sovereignty, but the US challenged the excessive maritime claims of 22 nations in 2016.
The flight of the B-52s, one of the US's nuclear bombers, represented an escalation of the conflict, and came after China landed nuclear bombers of its own on the islands.
China's coast guard and navy police the waterway and unilaterally tell its neighbors what activities they can undertake in the international waters.
The US maintains this is a threat to international order, but has struggled to reassure its regional allies that Chinese hegemony won't win out against an overstretched US Navy.
North Korean diplomats talking to South Korean officials in the demilitarized border zone between the two countries reportedly offered to remove the North's long-range artillery guns, which have been a dagger pointed at Seoul's throat for decades.
Before North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon, before it even built its first facility to create fissile material, its artillery had established a strong deterrent against South Korea and the US.
North Korea is estimated to have thousands of massive artillery guns hidden in hardened shelters among the hills and mountains of the country's rugged terrain. Artillery batteries located within range of the South Korean capital of Seoul could kill tens of thousands of people every hour if war were to break out.
Accounts in South Korean media differ over who exactly proposed the latest measure, but it came at a general-level military dialogue, which hadn't happened for over a decade before.
The two nations, still technically at war after signing an armistice in the 1950s, met under the banner of "practically eliminate the danger of war," as South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to do on April 27 during their historic first summit.
Not nuclear, but not nothing
North Korea's artillery guns have little to do with its nuclear weapons program, the elimination of which is the stated purpose of all recent North Korean diplomacy.
But the guns represent a substantial part of North Korea's threat to Seoul, perhaps acting as the main deterrent holding off a US or South Korean invasion during the multidecade military standoff.
Precisely because the artillery is so formidable, expect to see North Korea ask for something in return. Kim could ask for a withdrawal of or a reduction in US forces in South Korea — a longstanding goal in Pyongyang. Roughly 28,000 US troops are stationed in South Korea as a deterrent.
Experts assess that any steps made to wither the US-South Korean alliance could precipitate the decline of the US as a power in Asia and then the world.
President Donald Trump has emphasized military might during his first year in office, but the US is not the only country seeking to expand its battlefield capacities. Between 2012 and 2016, more weapons were delivered than during any five-year period since 1990.
Arms sales indicate who is beefing up their armed forces, but head-to-head military comparisons are harder to come by. Global Firepower's 2017 Military Strength Ranking tries to fill that void by drawing on more than 50 factors to assign a Power Index score to 133 countries.
The ranking assesses the diversity of weapons held by each country and pays particular attention to the manpower available. The geography, logistical capacity, available natural resources, and the status of local industry are also taken into account.
While recognized nuclear powers receive a bonus, the nuclear stockpiles are not factored into the score.
Moreover, countries that are landlocked are not docked points for lacking a navy, though they are penalized for not having a merchant marine force.
Countries with navies are penalized if there is a lack of diversity in their naval assets.
NATO countries get a slight bonus because the alliance would theoretically share resources, but in general, a country's current political and military leadership was not considered.
"Balance is the key — a large, strong fighting force across land, sea and air backed by a resilient economy and defensible territory along with an efficient infrastructure — such qualities are those used to round out a particular nation's total fighting strength on paper," the ranking states.
Below, you can see the 25 most powerful militaries in the world:
Power Index rating: 0.4366
Total population: 40,263,711
Total military personnel: 792,350
Total aircraft strength: 502
Fighter aircraft: 89
Combat tanks: 2,405
Total naval assets: 85
Defense budget: $10.6 billion
24. Saudi Arabia
Power Index rating: 0.4302
Total population: 28,160,273
Total military personnel: 256,000
Total aircraft strength: 790
Fighter aircraft: 177
Combat tanks: 1,142
Total naval assets: 55
Defense budget: $56.7 billion
23. North Korea
Power Index rating: 0.4218
Total population: 25,115,311
Total military personnel: 6,445,000
Total aircraft strength: 944
Fighter aircraft: 458
Combat tanks: 5,025
Total naval assets: 967
Defense budget: $7.5 billion
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly shared a mutual laugh with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on their first meeting that he would go on to describe as a success — despite joking that he was trying to kill Kim.
North Korea makes no secret of its distaste for the US and its various military and spy services. While Pompeo was the head of the CIA, North Korea accused the organization of trying to assassinate Kim.
But Kim's fears were not unfounded. The US maintains it does not plan for decapitation, or regime-change oriented strikes against foreign governments, but it's been constantly dogged by tales of US Navy SEALs training with South Korean soldiers to kill Kim.
Also, Pompeo dropped heavy hints in July 2017, right after North Korea began testing missiles that could hit the US, that he'd like to separate Kim from power.
So when the two men met in April, they didn't take long to address the elephant in the room.
Kim immediately challenged Pompeo, Vanity Fair's Abigail Tracey reported a source close to Pompeo as telling her.
Pompeo then reportedly joked that he was still trying to kill Kim, and the two men laughed, Tracey writes.
Later, the two would pose for photos together. Pompeo would go on to make security assurances to North Korea and wave before them the prospect of US investment in exchange for denuclearizing, which has yet to materialize.
A Japanese paper later reported that Kim had praised Pompeo for his bravery during that meeting.
"This is the first time I have met someone with the same kind of guts,"Kim reportedly said of Pompeo.
President Donald Trump is ordering the Pentagon to create the first new US military service branch in seven decades to establish "American dominance in space," and while experts quickly knocked the idea as premature — there's no doubt that space is a warfighting domain.
As it stands, the Russia and China both have tested missiles that could bring the US to its knees by crippling its satellites.
Satellites power GPS, which powers most civilian navigation and US military equipment. Satellites also time stamp transactions at US stock exchanges. Commercial satellites also relay internet, telephone, and radio communciations. The US, without its space assets, could suffer societal collapse at the hands of its rivals before a single terrestrial battle is fought.
For this reason, experts assess that space absolutely has become a warfighting domain, and one that may soon see lasers on space ships duking it out in a war above the clouds.
How a space war would go down
"If there was a war between a US and a China, for example, each side would likely try to take away the commanding heights of space from each other," Peter W. Singer, a strategist at non-partisan think tank New America and the author of "Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War," told Business Insider.
But instead of starships chasing each other in dogfights and "Star Wars" like duels in zero gravity, Singer said that most of a space fight would actually take place on plain old earth, though lasers are on the table.
The US and its adversaries would fire missiles at their adversary's satellites powering navigation and trade, possibly from traditional land launchers or from ships at sea. The US has plans to streamline the launching of satellites, and hopes any future space attacks can be thwarted by quick, cheap launches of constellations of small satellites.
Singer pointed out that the US has observed Russian "killer or kamikaze satellites" maneuvering out in space in ways that suggest they could attack or block US satellites.
"They also might be using directed energy of some kind to either blind or damage a satellite. That directed energy might be laser, ground based or space based," said Singer.
The real fighting is still on earth
But much of the fighting wouldn't be as flashy as space-fired lasers knocking out killer satellites, instead, it would likely take place in a "cross between space and cyber" warfare, according to Singer.
US and rival cyber warriors would start "trying to go after the communication links between space and earth on the ground. They might be trying to jam or take control of the satellites," he said.
But therein lies the problem.
Many in Congress have spoken out about the proposed Space Force, calling it premature. The Air Force, in its measured language, seems to hate the idea. Singer called it "absurd" and a "joke." Retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, also a a former Navy pilot, combat veteran, and four-time space-flyer called it a "dumb idea."
Basically, all the jobs the space force would do are already being done by the Air Force, and Navy, so making a costly new service this early into the space age could prove foolish.
"Yea space is a clear part of national security," said Singer, "but it’s hard to imagine a better waste of time energy and budget."
BEIJING (Reuters) - A formation of Chinese warships has been holding daily combat drills for more than a week in waters near Taiwan, China's state media said on Tuesday, amid heightened tension between Beijing and the self-ruled island.
The news comes as U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was set to arrive in the Chinese capital for an official visit.
Since June 17, a group of navy warships, including a Type 054A frigate and a Type 052C destroyer, have been conducting exercises near Taiwan, including in the Bashi Channel and the Taiwan Strait, said 81.cn, an official publication of the Chinese army.
"The drills tested the military and training abilities of warship, aviation and coastal defense troops, via organizing real combat training in multiple areas of the ocean," it said.
It was not clear if the drills had ended.
Taiwan's defense ministry said in a statement the vessels were monitored continuously and there was no cause for alarm.
China claims Taiwan as its own and has never renounced the use of force to bring under its control what it sees as a wayward province. Taiwan has shown no interest in being governed by the ruling Communist Party in Beijing.
United States overtures towards Taiwan, from unveiling a new de facto embassy to passing the Taiwan Travel Act, which encourages U.S. officials to visit, have further escalated tension between Beijing and Taipei.
Sino-U.S. ties are under growing pressure over burgeoning trade friction, the North Korean nuclear crisis and escalating activity in the disputed waterway of the South China Sea.
Early in June, Mattis, in a strongly worded speech at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, warned of Chinese intimidation in the South China Sea, adding that the United States was ready to "compete vigorously" if needed.
China often says the United States' acknowledgement of its "one-China" policy is foundational for two-way ties, and that Taiwan is the most sensitive issue in the relationship.
The United States is considering sending a warship through the Taiwan Strait, U.S. officials said in early June. Such a passage, should it happen, could be seen in Taiwan as a fresh sign of support by President Donald Trump.
The last time a U.S. aircraft carrier transited the Taiwan Strait was in 2007, during the administration of George W. Bush, and some U.S. military officials believe a carrier transit is overdue.
In recent months, China’s air force has held military maneuvers near the island, which Taipei has denounced as intimidation.
China’s hostility toward Taiwan has grown since Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party won presidential elections on the island in 2016.
China looks set to beat the US to the punch on a naval railgun — which the US has spent more than $500 million and a decade on — by deploying the game-changing weapon on a navy ship.
But the complicated railgun doesn't even have to work to succeed, as it looks as if Beijing's doing this to embarrass Washington.
The US Navy started work on a railgun in 2005. For years, the Navy struggled to reign in the wild technology that allows a railgun to fire a projectile at such high velocity that it will make a devastating impact without an explosive charge.
Some grounded tests of the Navy's railgun produced fantastic imagery, but it remains far from battle-ready and may never be fielded on a warship.
Earlier this year, a Chinese navy ship appeared on the water with a railgun of its own. By actually putting the weapon on the ship, China succeeded where the US Navy had failed for over a decade.
Citing people with knowledge of a US intelligence report, CNBC reported last week that China had been working on its railgun for seven years and was just another seven from deploying a working model on a ship.
It's "pretty obvious that China is working towards that goal, and probably faster than the US is," Melodie Ha, who's part of the Center for a New American Security's Asia-Pacific Security Program, told Business Insider.
"It's very possible that they will mount a working railgun on a ship" by 2025, Ha said. But everything is not always as it appears with the Chinese military.
A railgun doesn't even really make sense
Instead of gunpowder, pure electricity powers the railgun's projectiles. But despite the lack of explosives, railgun projectiles still cause fireballs, because the round travels so fast that the air and metal itself combust under the immense friction. This indicates the massive amount of electricity needed to fire the railgun — a big problem for China, or any warship.
The US has proposed putting a railgun on the new Zumwalt class of destroyer. The Chinese are likely to put a railgun on the Type 055 destroyer. The Zumwalt produces twice the electricity of the Type 055, according to Ha.
Additionally, the Chinese would have to clear the same engineering and operational hurdles that have kept the US from mounting the railgun on a ship. Railguns produce a lot of heat and have a short barrel life. After rapid-fire shots, the gun barrel might be susceptible to dangerous warping. And aiming a railgun that can fire at targets as far as 100 miles away — and from a warship that's rocking in the seas — also poses serious challenges.
Strategically, it's also unclear how the railgun fits into naval warfare. The US, China, and Russia all have hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile programs designed to thwart existing defenses, and they generally have higher accuracy and much greater range than the railgun.
And if the railgun's barrel melts after a few shots, why bother?
"As long as the US can launch a second strike, if the Chinese can't knock down the second missile, then what's the point?" Ha said.
China's railgun has a reported range of only 124 miles — so by the time the railgun could strike a target, the Chinese ship would already be in range of US missiles.
The real purpose behind the railgun
A railgun doesn't make sense in today's warfighting environment, but it makes perfect sense for another mission of China's navy: embarrassing the US.
"In terms of Chinese maritime grand strategy, it would fit in their entire plan," Ha said, adding that railguns are "next-generation technology" and that China wants to "prove to the US and the entire world that they are technologically advancing."
China's opaque system has shrouded the new railgun prototype in mystery. If China were to place one of these mysterious, next-generation guns in the South China Sea, it would have beaten the US to the punch on a major technological advance and projected a unique kind of power unmatched by the West.
At a time when the US and China are battling to see whose vision of the future can win out, it makes sense that Beijing would try to shame Washington by winning this leg of the arms race.
BEIJING (Reuters) - China is committed to peace but cannot give up "even one inch" of territory that the country's ancestors left behind, Chinese President Xi Jinping told U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday during his first visit to Beijing.
Xi's remarks underscored deep-rooted areas of tension in Sino-U.S. ties, particularly over what the Pentagon views as China's militarization of the South China Sea, a vital transit route for world trade.
But irritants in U.S.-China relations extend to other sensitive areas, including fears of a full-blown trade war between the world economic heavyweights.
Beijing is also deeply suspicious of U.S. intentions toward self-governing and democratic Taiwan, which is armed by the United States. China views the island as a sacred part of its territory.
Meeting in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, Xi told Mattis that China had only peaceful intentions and would not "cause chaos," state television reported.
Both countries' common interests far outweigh their differences, but on territorial issues there can be no concessions, Xi said, without referring to specific areas.
"We cannot lose even one inch of the territory left behind by our ancestors. What is other people's, we do not want at all," state television cited Xi as saying.
Mattis, in comments in front of reporters, told Xi the talks had been "very, very" good.
"I am happy to be in China and we are assigning the same high degree of importance to the military relationship" with China, Mattis said.
That relationship has been tested in recent months. In May, the Pentagon withdrew an invitation to China to join a multinational naval exercise, citing China's military moves in the South China Sea. The U.S. decision upset Beijing and was raised during Mattis' talks, officials said.
U.S. defense officials told reporters traveling with Mattis that the talks were generally positive and candid. While both sides acknowledged points of friction, they also sought to focus on areas of alignment -- including a shared goal of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
"Areas of disagreement were identified but not necessarily dwelt upon," said Randall Schriver, assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, saying both sides agreed to continue discussions on the South China Sea.
Meeting earlier in the day, China's Defense Minister Wei Fenghe told Mattis that only with mutual respect and by avoiding confrontation can China and the United States develop together.
"China and the United States can only develop together if we maintain no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation," Wei added.
"China and the United States' two militaries must implement the consensus of the two countries' leaders, increase mutual trust, strengthen cooperation and manage risks to turn ties between the two militaries into a factor for stability in the bilateral relationship."
Mattis, the first Pentagon chief to visit China since 2014, told Wei he expected all of his conversations in Beijing would be characterized by an "open and honest" dialogue.
"The military-to-military relationship is critical to the broader relationship between our two countries," Mattis added, in comments also in front of reporters.
Mattis invited Wei to visit him at the Pentagon.
Wei was similarly upbeat in his public remarks.
"Your visit to China this time is ... a new positive factor to the military-to-military and state-to-state relationship," said Wei, who only assumed his position in March.
The Chinese defense ministry statement made only passing mention of the South China Sea, Taiwan and North Korea, citing Wei as telling Mattis what China's positions were on those issues. China even made passing reference to concerns about trade with the United States, officials said.
As Mattis arrived, Chinese state media said a formation of Chinese warships had been holding daily combat drills for more than a week in waters near Taiwan, and there have been frequent Chinese air force exercises near the island.
While China and the United States have tried hard to keep lines of communication between their militaries open, especially at the senior level, they are deeply suspicious of each other.
Still, the United States and China have broad strategic common interests, such as ensuring peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.
China welcomed the historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un earlier this month in Singapore, where Kim reaffirmed a commitment to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, while Trump said he would halt joint U.S.-South Korean "war games."
The US will celebrate its Independence Day from Great Britain on Wednesday.
America's initial split from the British crown, which was codified in the Declaration of Independence, took a lot of political will and negotiation by the members of the Continental Congress, since many states were not open to the split at first.
But it was the Continental Army, and the militias that took up arms in support, that would go on to win the war — not to mention a little help from the French Navy.
In honor of their service, here is a list of some of the best military movies to watch on the 4th of July.
Jeremy Bender contributed to an earlier version of this post.
"The Patriot" (2000)
"The Patriot" tells the fictional tale of a colonial father who gets swept up in the American Revolution.
Haunted by his exploits during the French and Indian Wars, and initially unwilling to serve, he eventually goes on to form and lead a militia against the British.
"Top Gun" (1986)
Starring Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, "Top Gun" follows Cruise as he attends the Top Gun aviation school. An aggressive but extremely competent pilot, Cruise competes throughout his training to become the best pilot in training. The film was selected in 2015 by the Library of Congress for preservation due to its cultural significance.
"The Longest Day" (1962)
"The Longest Day" tells the story of heroism and loss that marked the Allies' successful completion of the Normandy Landings on D-Day during World War II.
The film stands out due to its attention to detail, as it employed many Axis and Allied D-Day participants as advisers for how to depict the D-Day landings in the movie.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
President Donald Trump followed up on a week of bashing NATO allies on Twitter with an in-person tirade against Germany's planned energy cooperation with Russia.
In a heated meeting in Brussels with the leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Trump claimed that Moscow basically controlled Berlin because of Germany's dependence on it for energy.
"It's very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia where we're supposed to be guarding against Russia, and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year from Russia," Trump told NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at a working breakfast to open the summit.
"Germany is totally controlled by Russia," Trump said. "Because they're getting between 60 to 70% of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline."
Trump was presumably referring to Nord Stream 2, a pipeline project backed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that will allow for more consumption of Russian energy.
"You tell me if that's appropriate," Trump said, "because I think it's not, and I think it's very bad thing for NATO."
A Reuters review of Germany's official data shows that 35.3% of its imports of oil and gas comes from Russia.
While Trump has routinely misrepresented the nature of NATO's funding and how the alliance works to share the burden of mutual defense, he's correct that energy dependence on Russia from Germany, and all of Europe, gives Moscow influence.
"Russia is so dependent on Europeans buying their energy that if Europe did even a partial embargo and cut its energy purchases from Russia in half, it would have a crippling impact on the Russian economy and make it impossible for Putin to pay for his foreign aggression," Jorge Benitez, a NATO expert at the Atlantic Council, previously told Business Insider, mentioning Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russia's main source of income is energy exports. With oil prices plummeting over the past few years, Russia's economy has suffered greatly. But it has actually increased exports to Europe over the past few years, helping it carry out the type of foreign military interventions that NATO was designed to stop.
Europe, which is Russia's main client, bought almost 30% of its oil from Russia in 2014 when Russia illegally annexed Crimea. In January, Russian gas exports to Europe hit an all-time high, with Russia controlling about 40% of Europe's supply.
The Trump administration has tried to compete with Russia in the energy sector in Europe, but the US relies on shipping tankers of natural gas and oil, a process likely to be undercut by a pipeline like the Nord Stream 2.
Germany has a big target on its back
Trump's attack comes at a time when Germany, Europe's biggest economy, spends relatively little on defense and has a woefully unprepared and inoperable military.
In May, the German news outlet Der Spiegel reported that only four of Germany's 128 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets were ready to fly combat missions. Germany's defense minister has called the country's defense spending "inadequate" as Merkel prioritizes social works instead.
About 35,000 active-duty US troops were stationed in Germany last year.
Germany spends 1.24% of its gross domestic product on defense but has committed to hitting 2% by 2024, something Trump, and other US leaders before him, have tried to hasten.
Defense spending is unpopular in Germany, however, and Trump may only make that problem worse with Merkel struggling to hold together a weak coalition government.
"I think the president is right," Mark D. Simakovsky, an Atlantic Council expert who previously served as the Europe/NATO chief of staff in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, told Business Insider.
"He does need to call for more burden sharing. Allies are not doing enough to provide adequate security. He's right to go to Europe criticizing and complaining to NATO allies, but he's not right in using that as the only issue he's focused on."
"Germans need to do more and can afford to do more," on defense spending, Simakovsky said, but "you can make it harder to meet that threshold when Trump is so unpopular."
President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel appear headed for a one-on-one confrontation on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels after Trump slammed Germany as being controlled by Russia.
Trump and Merkel are expected to have a "pull aside" meeting in which Trump will bring up his contention that Russia, through its supply of oil and gas to Germany, controls the country's politics, The New York Times' White House correspondent Julia Davis reported on Wednesday.
"Germany is totally controlled by Russia, because they will be getting from 60-70% of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline,"Trump said at a working breakfast with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
"You tell me if that's appropriate, because I think it's not, and I think it's a very bad thing for NATO, and I don't think it should have happened," Trump said. "And I think we have to talk to Germany about it."
A Reuters review of Germany's official data shows that 35.3% of German imports of oil and gas come from Russia, but the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline project is expected to increase such energy trade.
Trump went on to bash Germany's defense spending, which stands at 1.24% of its gross domestic product. The country has committed to reaching 2% by 2024, but Trump has pushed it to get there sooner.
"I think it's very unfair to our country," Trump said. "These countries have to step it up not over a 10-year period — have to step it up immediately. Germany is a rich country. They talk about they're going to increase it a tiny bit by 2030. Well, they could increase it immediately."
Merkel fires back
Just hours after Trump's comments, Merkel fired back, saying she lived in East Germany under Soviet control and that things are different now.
"I am very happy that today we are united in freedom, the Federal Republic of Germany," she said. "Because of that we can say that we can make our independent policies and make independent decisions. That is very good, especially for people in eastern Germany."
Merkel also defended Germany's role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, pointing out that German troops were still fighting for US interests in Afghanistan after the US invoked NATO's mutual-defense clause following the September 11, 2001, attacks.
"Germany is the second-largest provider of troops — the largest part of our military capacity is offered to NATO and until today we have a strong engagement toward Afghanistan," she said. "In that we also defend the interests of the United States."
Trump found Merkel's weak spot, and he's hammering it
Merkel faces serious difficulties in meeting Germany's defense-spending commitments to NATO. They are unpopular domestically, and she is already struggling to stay atop a shaky coalition government.
At the same time, Germany's military is in a poor state, and the country's own defense minister has criticized a lack of readiness and defense spending. In May, the German news outlet Der Spiegel reported that only four of Germany's 128 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets were ready to fly combat missions.
While the US has moved to increase its troop presence in Germany and Eastern Europe as a counter to Russia, Merkel's government has sought to increase some energy purchases from Russia, the very force NATO seeks to defend against.
But as Mark D. Simakovsky, an Atlantic Council expert who previously served as the Europe/NATO chief of staff in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, told Business Insider, Trump is unpopular in Europe, and that could make upping defense spending even harder for Merkel.
A North Korean diplomat reportedly told an Israeli diplomat in 1999 that Pyongyang would provide ballistic missile technology to Iran, a state sworn to destroy Israel, unless it paid up to the tune of $1 billion.
North Korea has a long and well documented history of providing weapons technology, including chemical and nuclear weapon infrastructure, to countries like Iran and Syria.
While Pyongyang commands a few dozen operational nuclear warheads, according to intelligence reports, its real threat to the world lies not in starting an outright nuclear war, but in selling nuclear weapons to states, or terrorists, that may use them.
It's unclear if Israel ever paid North Korea's blackmail, though Israel would later destroy an Iranian nuclear reactor that North Korea was suspected of helping build.
North Korea selling nukes is a bigger threat than just building them
If North Korea launched a nuclear attack, it would swiftly find itself on the receiving end of more powerful, more precise nuclear weapons. North Korea's nuclear weapons serve mainly to deter attacks.
But because of North Korea's decision to defy international law by testing and developing nuclear weapons, it finds itself under heavy sanctions and impoverished.
This leaves North Korea as a cash-hungry state with an excess of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology. A terror group or fellow rogue state, seeing the legitimacy and national power nuclear weapons have bestowed upon North Korea, might seek to buy nuclear technology off Pyongyang.
While many experts generally expect North Korea to maintain the status quo with its nuclear weapons by using them mainly to deter enemies, it's less clear that Iran, Syria, or especially a terror network would show such restraint.
“Depending on the demand, we certainly cannot exclude the possibility that North Korea will sell its nuclear weapons for cash,” said Nam Sung-wook, a former South Korean intelligence official told the Wall Street Journal, who first reported on North Korea's attempted blackmail.
The UN has concluded that North Korea has a long history of weapons cooperation with Iran and Syria, the US's two foremost nation-state enemies in the Middle East. Iran's stated goal is to destroy Israel, and while their conventional military offers them little hope of achieving that, nuclear weapons actually could do the job.
Trump isn't doing anything about this
The US under President Donald Trump has lowered the threat of outright nuclear war with North Korea following talks and a summit with Kim Jong Un, but no work towards denuclearization appears to have actually taken place.
North Korea has not shared with the US any details of its nuclear program, and the US has no specifics from the Kim regime on how many weapons it has or where it keeps them.
So despite Trump's insistence that North Korea isn't a threat anymore, there's absolutely no way of knowing if Kim would provide nuclear weapons to aggressive states, or use that leverage to blackmail countries for fear of nuclear war.
Russia announced earlier this month that the Su-57, its proposed entry into the world of fifth-generation stealth fighter aircraft, will not see mass production.
“The plane has proven to be very good, including in Syria, where it confirmed its performance and combat capabilities,” Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said on Russian TV on July 2, as The Diplomat reports.
But despite Russia's non-stop praise for the plane and dubious claims about its abilities, Borisov ultimately said, "The Su-57 is considered to be one of the best aircrafts produced in the world. Consequently, it does not make sense to speed up work on mass-producing the fifth-generation aircraft.”"
Justin Bronk, a combat aviation expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that Borisov's comments "could be charitably described as an unreasonably optimistic reason why they stopped production."
Basically, Borisov said the plane is so much better than everything out there, they don't need to build it, which Bronk finds unlikely.
Instead, Russia will stick to what it's good at with upgraded fourth generation aircraft in service instead of the Su-57, which originally was meant to replace the older fighters.
The Su-57, a plane meant to function as a killer of US F-35 and F-22 stealth jets with an innovative array of radars, saw a brief period of combat over Syria, but the deployment only lasted days and didn't pit the jet against any threats befitting a world class fighter.
Initially proposed as a joint project with India, the Su-57 hit trouble when neither side could agree on how to split the production and technological development. After 11 years in the program, India withdrew, leaving Russia to go it alone with a weak economy.
Now, India has been discussed as a potential buyer of the F-35 in another blow to Russia's dream of developing its own fifth-gen fighter.
Su-57 was never really fifth-generation, and never really stealth
A senior stealth scientist recently told Business Insider that though the jet claimed a stealthy profile, it had glaring and obvious flaws. A 2016 report from IHS Janes stated the jet was fifth generation "in name only."
But the Su-57 carries a massive payload, and was slated to one day carry nuclear weapons. Like the Su-35 before it, had super maneuverability beyond that of any US jet.
By all means, the Su-57 appeared a next-level dogfighting jet capable of taking out the US's best fighters in close combat, but its failure to integrate stealth meant that getting in close with an F-35 or F-22 seemed an unlikely bet.
Bronk said Russia must have looked at the program and realized that it didn't have the potential, even with upgrades and maturation, to ever work out to be worth the price. At around $40 million a unit, Russia's Su-57 is less than half the price of an F-35, but considerably more expensive than its other jets.
"Russia is more or less admitting defeat in building a feasible fifth-generation fighter," said Bronk.
For that price, according to Bronk, Russia can just put the fancy radars and missiles on its older planes in greater numbers, as the Su-57's airframe was never really stealth in the first place.
Russia is currently working on new tanks, submarines, and nuclear weapons, all of which tax its already large defense budget. With other projects going forward, it appears the Su-57 has become the first casualty of the budget crunch.
As the US's F-35 starts to come on line in significant numbers, and China's J-20 stealth jet deploys in earnest, it looks like Russia is getting left behind in the world of top-class militaries.
The US Navy broke with its tradition of hyping up F-35 deployments when it sent the USS Essex jump-jet carrier into the Western Pacific with a deck full of the revolutionary fighter jets this week — and it could signal a big change in how the US deals with its toughest adversaries.
When the USS Wasp became the first small-deck aircraft carrier to deploy with US Marine Corps F-35Bs earlier this year, the media was in on it. But the Essex's departure marks a change, as the Navy announced the deployment only after the ship departed, USNI News noted.
The Navy regularly deploys capital ships like small- and large-deck carriers for patrols around the world but has only twice deployed ones like these.
The F-35 has become the most expensive weapons system in history and earned its share of criticism along the way as costs ballooned and deadlines fell through. The Marine Corps' F-35B is designed to land vertically and take off from short runways, like an amphibious assault ship, and will replace the AV-8B Harrier in ground and air attack missions; the Navy's F-35C has a tailhook to snag an arresting cable and land on an aircraft carrier.
Naturally, the US military would be keen to show off the jets, which it bills as a revolution in aerial combat because of their stealth design and advanced sensors and controls. But it seems it has opted to skip the public-relations coup for something a bit more operational.
The Navy wants to change the media's expectations regarding ship deployments to the Pacific, sources told USNI News.
The US military usually prides itself on publicizing its ship deployments and often says its carrier deployments are drawn up apolitically and months ahead of time, but insisting on some level of secrecy betrays that.
What does the US Navy have to hide in the Pacific?
The US has major adversaries in the Pacific — namely China and, to a lesser extent, North Korea.
It makes sense that with dialogue underway with North Korea, the US would want to quiet big deployments to the Western Pacific, and a high-profile deployment of next-generation stealth jets could seriously spook North Korea.
But it's China's navy that poses the biggest threat to the US, and it's possibly the reason the US is staying quiet.
When the USS Ronald Reagan, the US's forward-deployed aircraft carrier in Japan, patrolled the South China Sea, which China unilaterally claims as its own in defiance of international law, the US said very little about it. Repeated requests for comment from Business Insider went ignored.
The US uses its Navy to challenge what it calls excessive maritime claims of dozens of nations around the world in passages called "freedom of navigation" operations. Basically, if a country claims an excessive amount of maritime territory, the US usually sails a destroyer through to inform it that its claims are not recognized.
China views these patrols as a challenge to its sovereignty and makes a big deal out of them. For the US, it's better if the challenges to China's claims are the norm and not a news story. Some observers have speculated that the US wants to send a message to China's military leadership without the publicity that may compel them to escalate.
By keeping quiet high-profile deployments to the Pacific, the US could be signaling that it's getting ready to put the ball back in China's court, with high-end military hardware checking it and disputes handled between navies rather than via press releases.
President Donald Trump has said he is considering more meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, despite meager results and a furious backlash from recent summits between him and the two men.
Neither his June summit with Kim nor his one-on-one meeting on Monday with Putin produced known tangible gains for the US public, something critics have pointed out.
Trump's summit this week with Putin in Finland was nearly universally panned even by Republicans after he appeared to take Russia's word over that of his own intelligence services on whether the Kremlin hacked Democratic National Committee servers to meddle in the 2016 US election.
"My people came to me … They said they think it's Russia," Trump said Monday at a joint press conference with Putin after the two met in private. "I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia."
"I don't see any reason why it would be," Trump added. The next day he tried to walk that comment back, saying he actually meant to say he didn't see any reason it "wouldn't" be Russia.
Similarly, Trump accepted a vague, nonbinding agreement from Kim to denuclearize, which again pinned his confidence on his personal trust in the North Korean leader.
While Trump has talked up the prospect of improved relations with North Korea and Russia — both nuclear-armed states with grudges against the US — his efforts have yet to yield major results.
As one of the few explicit promises Kim made in a joint statement with Trump after the two met in June, the North Korean leader agreed to an "immediate" repatriation of the remains of US troops killed in the Korean War.
A month later, no such repatriation has taken place, and the North Koreans have skipped meetings to set up what could be a relatively straightforward process.
Trump has continued to take Kim's word that North Korea is denuclearizing, but US intelligence services have found evidence that the country's nuclear-weapons programs have actually advanced since the talks.
North Korea, thereby, has succeeded in the same way Russia has, by pitting Trump against his own intelligence services.
What's the US public getting out of this?
And while Trump may have succeeded in warming relations on two fronts, he is yet to produce any tangible results for Americans. Neither Putin nor Kim has agreed to take any actions in the US's security interests.
Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia, said on Twitter that"'good' relations with Russia is not a goal of U.S. foreign policy, but only a means to other ends."
What those other ends are for Trump, who did not strongly condemn any Russian behavior or suggest any major changes, remains unclear.
Trump's dislike of the 'deep state' goes both ways
Trump campaigned on "draining the swamp" of anonymous bureaucrats and frequently targets what he calls a "deep state" of faceless intelligence officials acting as political operatives — and the animosity appears mutual.
After Trump's apparent siding with Putin in questions of Russian election meddling, both FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats hinted that they may resign.
Coats quickly made public his misalignment with Trump on Russia and said he'd have handled things differently. Trump reportedly then floated the idea of firing Coats.
Trump has also consistently attacked the FBI's investigation into whether his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia.
His reluctance to criticize Russia or Putin has prompted experts who formerly held top posts within the intelligence community to begin forming a consensus view that Russia has some leverage over Trump, with some rationalizing his behavior as that of a "controlled spy."
WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence's message to GOP senators during a closed door lunch at the National Republican Senatorial Committee on Tuesday created a mix up of what exactly President Donald Trump promised North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during initial negotiations in Singapore this week.
During the meeting, Trump offered to end the joint military exercise between the US and the South Korean government. Trump called the joint military exercises "very provocative" and dismissed them as a highly expensive practice for the US.
After Pence met with Republicans on Tuesday to brief them on the historic summit, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner told reporters that they were assured joint military exercises would continue.
But Pence's press secretary, Alyssa Farah, said otherwise, and that the vice president said no such thing during the policy lunch.
Gardner doubled down, writing on Twitter that Pence "was very clear: regular readiness training and training exchanges will continue."
Later, an aide to Pence told NBC that the bi-annual exercises would not continue, but regular training exercises would, and there is a "huge difference between the two." Gardner then went on to say that Pence said "while this readiness training and exchanges will occur, war games will not."
The meeting in Singapore produced a handful of commitments from the Kim regime, including a restated intent to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. However, there were no specifics offered on future plans, which will be a work in progress for the Trump administration if a deal is to be reached.
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Koreans are getting a new look at U.S. President Donald Trump now that his summit with leader Kim Jong Un is over and it's a far cry from the "dotard" label their government slapped on him last year.
Previously, even on a good day, the best he might get was "Trump." No honorifics. No signs of respect. Now, he's being called "the president of the United States of America." Or "President Donald J. Trump."
Even "supreme leader."
The post-summit transformation of North Korea's official version of Trump, who's now being shown by the state media looking serious and almost regal, underscores the carefully choreographed reality show the government has had to perform to keep its people, taught from childhood to hate and distrust the "American imperialists," ideologically on board with the tectonic shifts underway in their country's relationship with Washington.
With a time lag that suggests a great deal of care and thought went into the final product, the North's state-run television aired its first videos and photos of the summit on Thursday, two days after the event and a full day after Kim returned home to Pyongyang, the capital.
To be sure, the star of the show was Kim. Trump's first appearance and the now famous handshake didn't come until almost 20 minutes into the 42-minute program.
To the dramatic, almost song-like intonations of the nation's most famous newscaster, the program depicted Kim as statesmanlike beyond his years, confident and polite, quick to smile and firmly in control. He was shown allowing the older American — Trump, in his seventies, is more than twice Kim's age — to lean in toward him to shake hands, or give a thumbs up, then walking a few steps ahead to a working lunch.
Before showing the two signing their joint statement, the newscaster said Trump made a point of giving Kim a look at his armored Cadillac limousine, and noted that it is known to Americans as "the Beast." She also at one point called them the "two supreme leaders" of their countries.
The image-heavy news of Kim's trip to Singapore was presented like a chronological documentary, starting with the red-carpet send off at the Pyongyang airport on, interestingly enough, a chartered Air China flight. That was followed by video of his motorcade making its way to the St. Regis Hotel in Singapore as throngs of well-wishers waved as though awaiting a rock star, and Kim's night tour of the city-state on the summit's eve.
The state media's representation of the summit and Trump is extremely important because it gives the North Korean population, which has only limited access to other news sources, an idea not just of what's going on but also of how the government expects them to respond.
For the average North Korean, the state media's coverage of Kim's diplomatic blitz this year must seem nothing short of astonishing.
After sending a top-level delegation that included his own sister to the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February, Kim has met twice each with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Chinese President Xi Jinping and the state media have splashed all of the meetings across its front pages and newscasts — though generally a day after the fact to allow time to make sure the ideological tone is right and the images as powerful as possible.
In the run-up to the summit, the North's media softened its rhetoric so as not to spoil the atmosphere as Kim prepared to sit down with the leader of the country North Korea has maligned and lambasted for decades as the most evil place on Earth, other than perhaps Japan, its former colonial ruler.
It fired a few barrages against hard-line comments by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Adviser John Bolton and has stood ever critical of "capitalist values," but has kept direct references to Trump to a minimum. Bolton, who has been a target of Pyongyang's ire since his service in the George W. Bush administration, was introduced in the Thursday program dead-pan and shown shaking Kim's hand.
What this all means for the future is a complicated matter.
North Korea has presented Kim's diplomatic strategy as a logical next step following what he has said is the completion of his plan to develop a credible nuclear deterrent to what Pyongyang has long claimed is a policy of hostility and "nuclear blackmail" by Washington.
That was its message through the news on Thursday, which stressed that the talks with Trump would be focused on forging a relationship that is more in tune with what it called changing times — most likely meaning North Korea's new status as a nuclear weapons state — and its desire for a mechanism to ensure a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula and, finally, denuclearization.
Despite the respectful tone, there remains a clear undercurrent of caution.
Kim remains the hero in the official Pyongyang narrative. Whether Trump will be his co-star, or once again the villain, is fodder for another episode.
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