President Donald J. Trump’s Address at the Joint Session of the US Congress–February 28, 2017


March 1, 2017

President Donald J. Trump’s Address at the Joint Session of the US Congress–February 28, 2017

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Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, the First Lady of the United States, and Citizens of America:

Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our Nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that still remains.

Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.

Each American generation passes the torch of truth, liberty and justice — in an unbroken chain all the way down to the present.

That torch is now in our hands. And we will use it to light up the world. I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength, and it is a message deeply delivered from my heart.

A new chapter of American Greatness is now beginning.

A new national pride is sweeping across our Nation.

And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp.

What we are witnessing today is the Renewal of the American Spirit. Our allies will find that America is once again ready to lead.

All the nations of the world — friend or foe — will find that America is strong, America is proud, and America is free.

In nine years, the United States will celebrate the 250th anniversary of our founding — 250 years since the day we declared our Independence.

It will be one of the great milestones in the history of the world. But what will America look like as we reach our 250th year? What kind of country will we leave for our children?

I will not allow the mistakes of recent decades past to define the course of our future. For too long, we’ve watched our middle class shrink as we’ve exported our jobs and wealth to foreign countries.

We’ve financed and built one global project after another, but ignored the fates of our children in the inner cities of Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit — and so many other places throughout our land.

We’ve defended the borders of other nations, while leaving our own borders wide open, for anyone to cross — and for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate.

And we’ve spent trillions of dollars overseas, while our infrastructure at home has so badly crumbled.

Then, in 2016, the earth shifted beneath our feet. The rebellion started as a quiet protest, spoken by families of all colors and creeds — families who just wanted a fair shot for their children, and a fair hearing for their concerns

But then the quiet voices became a loud chorus — as thousands of citizens now spoke out together, from cities small and large, all across our country.

Finally, the chorus became an earthquake — and the people turned out by the tens of millions, and they were all united by one very simple, but crucial demand, that America must put its own citizens first … because only then, can we truly MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.

Dying industries will come roaring back to life. Heroic veterans will get the care they so desperately need.

Our military will be given the resources its brave warriors so richly deserve.

Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our beautiful land.

Our terrible drug epidemic will slow down and ultimately, stop. And our neglected inner cities will see a rebirth of hope, safety, and opportunity.

Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people.

It’s been a little over a month since my inauguration, and I want to take this moment to update the Nation on the progress I’ve made in keeping those promises.

Since my election, Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, General Motors, Sprint, Softbank, Lockheed, Intel, Walmart, and many others, have announced that they will invest billions of dollars in the United States and will create tens of thousands of new American jobs.

The stock market has gained almost three trillion dollars in value since the election on November 8, a record. We’ve saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by bringing down the price of the fantastic new F-35 jet fighter, and will be saving billions more dollars on contracts all across our Government. We have placed a hiring freeze on non-military and non-essential Federal workers.

We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a 5 year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials — and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government.

We have undertaken a historic effort to massively reduce job‑crushing regulations, creating a deregulation task force inside of every Government agency; imposing a new rule which mandates that for every 1 new regulation, 2 old regulations must be eliminated; and stopping a regulation that threatens the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners.

We have cleared the way for the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines — thereby creating tens of thousands of jobs — and I’ve issued a new directive that new American pipelines be made with American steel.

We have withdrawn the United States from the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership.

With the help of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, we have formed a Council with our neighbors in Canada to help ensure that women entrepreneurs have access to the networks, markets and capital they need to start a business and live out their financial dreams.

To protect our citizens, I have directed the Department of Justice to form a Task Force on Reducing Violent Crime.

I have further ordered the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, along with the Department of State and the Director of National Intelligence, to coordinate an aggressive strategy to dismantle the criminal cartels that have spread across our Nation.

 We will stop the drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth — and we will expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted.

At the same time, my Administration has answered the pleas of the American people for immigration enforcement and border security. By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone. We want all Americans to succeed — but that can’t happen in an environment of lawless chaos. We must restore integrity and the rule of law to our borders.

For that reason, we will soon begin the construction of a great wall along our southern border. It will be started ahead of schedule and, when finished, it will be a very effective weapon against drugs and crime.

As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak tonight and as I have promised.

To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this question: what would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or a loved one, because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?

Our obligation is to serve, protect, and defend the citizens of the United States. We are also taking strong measures to protect our Nation from Radical Islamic Terrorism.

According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country. We have seen the attacks at home — from Boston to San Bernardino to the Pentagon and yes, even the World Trade Center.

We have seen the attacks in France, in Belgium, in Germany and all over the world.

It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur. Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values.

We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America — we cannot allow our Nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.

That is why my Administration has been working on improved vetting procedures, and we will shortly take new steps to keep our Nation safe — and to keep out those who would do us harm.

As promised, I directed the Department of Defense to develop a plan to demolish and destroy ISIS — a network of lawless savages that have slaughtered Muslims and Christians, and men, women, and children of all faiths and beliefs. We will work with our allies, including our friends and allies in the Muslim world, to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet.

I have also imposed new sanctions on entities and individuals who support Iran’s ballistic missile program, and reaffirmed our unbreakable alliance with the State of Israel.

Finally, I have kept my promise to appoint a Justice to the United States Supreme Court — from my list of 20 judges — who will defend our Constitution.

I am honored to have Maureen Scalia with us in the gallery tonight. Her late, great husband, Antonin Scalia, will forever be a symbol of American justice. To fill his seat, we have chosen Judge Neil Gorsuch, a man of incredible skill, and deep devotion to the law. He was confirmed unanimously to the Court of Appeals, and I am asking the Senate to swiftly approve his nomination.

Tonight, as I outline the next steps we must take as a country, we must honestly acknowledge the circumstances we inherited.

Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force.Over 43 million people are now living in poverty, and over 43 million Americans are on food stamps.

More than 1 in 5 people in their prime working years are not working.We have the worst financial recovery in 65 years.

In the last 8 years, the past Administration has put on more new debt than nearly all other Presidents combined.

We’ve lost more than one-fourth of our manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was approved, and we’ve lost 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

Our trade deficit in goods with the world last year was nearly $800 billion dollars. And overseas, we have inherited a series of tragic foreign policy disasters.

Solving these, and so many other pressing problems, will require us to work past the differences of party. It will require us to tap into the American spirit that has overcome every challenge throughout our long and storied history.

But to accomplish our goals at home and abroad, we must restart the engine of the American economy — making it easier for companies to do business in the United States, and much harder for companies to leave.

Now, American companies are taxed at one of the highest rates anywhere in the world.

My economic team is developing historic tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies so they can compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone. At the same time, we will provide massive tax relief for the middle class.

We must create a level playing field for American companies and workers

Currently, when we ship products out of America, many other countries make us pay very high tariffs and taxes — but when foreign companies ship their products into America, we charge them almost nothing.

I just met with officials and workers from a great American company, Harley-Davidson. In fact, they proudly displayed five of their magnificent motorcycles, made in the USA, on the front lawn of the White House.

At our meeting, I asked them, how are you doing, how is business? They said that it’s good. I asked them further how they are doing with other countries, mainly international sales. They told me — without even complaining because they have been mistreated for so long that they have become used to it — that it is very hard to do business with other countries because they tax our goods at such a high rate. They said that in one case another country taxed their motorcycles at 100 percent. They weren’t even asking for change. But I am. I believe strongly in free trade but it also has to be FAIR TRADE.

The first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, warned that the “abandonment of the protective policy by the American Government [will] produce want and ruin among our people.”

Lincoln was right — and it is time we heeded his words. I am not going to let America and its great companies and workers, be taken advantage of anymore.

I am going to bring back millions of jobs. Protecting our workers also means reforming our system of legal immigration. The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers, and puts great pressure on taxpayers.

Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others — have a merit-based immigration system. It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially. Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon. According to the National Academy of Sciences, our current immigration system costs America’s taxpayers many billions of dollars a year

Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, will have many benefits: it will save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages, and help struggling families — including immigrant families — enter the middle class.

I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: to improve jobs and wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation’s security, and to restore respect for our laws.

If we are guided by the well-being of American citizens then I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades.

Another Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, initiated the last truly great national infrastructure program — the building of the interstate highway system. The time has come for a new program of national rebuilding.

America has spent approximately six trillion dollars in the Middle East, all this while our infrastructure at home is crumbling. With this six trillion dollars we could have rebuilt our country — twice. And maybe even three times if we had people who had the ability to negotiate

To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking the Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States — financed through both public and private capital — creating millions of new jobs.

This effort will be guided by two core principles: Buy American, and Hire American.

Tonight, I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better Healthcare.

Mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for America. The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we will do.

Obamacare premiums nationwide have increased by double and triple digits. As an example, Arizona went up 116 percent last year alone. Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky just said Obamacare is failing in his State — it is unsustainable and collapsing.

One third of counties have only one insurer on the exchanges — leaving many Americans with no choice at all

Remember when you were told that you could keep your doctor, and keep your plan? We now know that all of those promises have been broken.

 Obamacare is collapsing — and we must act decisively to protect all Americans. Action is not a choice — it is a necessity.

So I am calling on all Democrats and Republicans in the Congress to work with us to save Americans from this imploding Obamacare disaster.

Here are the principles that should guide the Congress as we move to create a better healthcare system for all Americans:

First, we should ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage, and that we have a stable transition for Americans currently enrolled in the healthcare exchanges.

Secondly, we should help Americans purchase their own coverage, through the use of tax credits and expanded Health Savings Accounts — but it must be the plan they want, not the plan forced on them by the Government.

 Thirdly, we should give our great State Governors the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out.

Fourthly, we should implement legal reforms that protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs that drive up the price of insurance — and work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs and bring them down immediately.

Finally, the time has come to give Americans the freedom to purchase health insurance across State lines — creating a truly competitive national marketplace that will bring cost way down and provide far better care.

Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed. Every problem can be solved. And every hurting family can find healing, and hope.

Our citizens deserve this, and so much more — so why not join forces to finally get it done? On this and so many other things, Democrats and Republicans should get together and unite for the good of our country, and for the good of the American people.

My administration wants to work with members in both parties to make childcare accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents have paid family leave, to invest in women’s health, and to promote clean air and clear water, and to rebuild our military and our infrastructure.

True love for our people requires us to find common ground, to advance the common good, and to cooperate on behalf of every American child who deserves a brighter future.

An incredible young woman is with us this evening who should serve as an inspiration to us all.

Today is Rare Disease day, and joining us in the gallery is a Rare Disease Survivor, Megan Crowley. Megan was diagnosed with Pompe Disease, a rare and serious illness, when she was 15 months old. She was not expected to live past 5.

On receiving this news, Megan’s dad, John, fought with everything he had to save the life of his precious child. He founded a company to look for a cure, and helped develop the drug that saved Megan’s life.

Today she is 20 years old — and a sophomore at Notre Dame. Megan’s story is about the unbounded power of a father’s love for a daughter.

But our slow and burdensome approval process at the Food and Drug Administration keeps too many advances, like the one that saved Megan’s life, from reaching those in need.

If we slash the restraints, not just at the FDA but across our Government, then we will be blessed with far more miracles like Megan. In fact, our children will grow up in a Nation of miracles.But to achieve this future, we must enrich the mind — and the souls — of every American child.

Education is the civil rights issue of our time. I am calling upon Members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children. These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them.

We want all children to be able to break the cycle of poverty just like Denisha. But to break the cycle of poverty, we must also break the cycle of violence. The murder rate in 2015 experienced its largest single-year increase in nearly half a century.

In Chicago, more than 4,000 people were shot last year alone — and the murder rate so far this year has been even higher. This is not acceptable in our society.

Every American child should be able to grow up in a safe community, to attend a great school, and to have access to a high-paying job. But to create this future, we must work with — not against — the men and women of law enforcement.

We must build bridges of cooperation and trust — not drive the wedge of disunity and division.

Police and sheriffs are members of our community. They are friends and neighbors, they are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters — and they leave behind loved ones every day who worry whether or not they’ll come home safe and sound. We must support the incredible men and women of law enforcement. And we must support the victims of crime.

I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American Victims. The office is called VOICE — Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement. We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.

Joining us in the audience tonight are four very brave Americans whose government failed them.Their names are Jamiel Shaw, Susan Oliver, Jenna Oliver, and Jessica Davis.

Jamiel’s 17-year-old son was viciously murdered by an illegal immigrant gang member, who had just been released from prison. Jamiel Shaw Jr. was an incredible young man, with unlimited potential who was getting ready to go to college where he would have excelled as a great quarterback. But he never got the chance. His father, who is in the audience tonight, has become a good friend of mine.

Also with us are Susan Oliver and Jessica Davis. Their husbands — Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver and Detective Michael Davis — were slain in the line of duty in California. They were pillars of their community. These brave men were viciously gunned down by an illegal immigrant with a criminal record and two prior deportations

Sitting with Susan is her daughter, Jenna. Jenna: I want you to know that your father was a hero, and that tonight you have the love of an entire country supporting you and praying for you.

To Jamiel, Jenna, Susan and Jessica: I want you to know — we will never stop fighting for justice. Your loved ones will never be forgotten, we will always honor their memory.

Finally, to keep America Safe we must provide the men and women of the United States military with the tools they need to prevent war and — if they must — to fight and to win.

I am sending the Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the Defense sequester, and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.

My budget will also increase funding for our veterans. Our veterans have delivered for this Nation — and now we must deliver for them.

The challenges we face as a Nation are great. But our people are even greater. And none are greater or braver than those who fight for America in uniform.

We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a U.S. Navy Special Operator, Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens. Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero — battling against terrorism and securing our Nation.

I just spoke to General Mattis, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, “Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.” Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity.

For as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom — we will never forget him.

To those allies who wonder what kind of friend America will be, look no further than the heroes who wear our uniform.

Our foreign policy calls for a direct, robust and meaningful engagement with the world. It is American leadership based on vital security interests that we share with our allies across the globe.

We strongly support NATO, an alliance forged through the bonds of two World Wars that dethroned fascism, and a Cold War that defeated communism.But our partners must meet their financial obligations.

And now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that.

We expect our partners, whether in NATO, in the Middle East, or the Pacific — to take a direct and meaningful role in both strategic and military operations, and pay their fair share of the cost.

We will respect historic institutions, but we will also respect the sovereign rights of nations.

Free nations are the best vehicle for expressing the will of the people — and America respects the right of all nations to chart their own path. My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America. But we know that America is better off, when there is less conflict — not more.

We must learn from the mistakes of the past — we have seen the war and destruction that have raged across our world.

The only long-term solution for these humanitarian disasters is to create the conditions where displaced persons can safely return home and begin the long process of rebuilding.

America is willing to find new friends, and to forge new partnerships, where shared interests align. We want harmony and stability, not war and conflict.

We want peace, wherever peace can be found. America is friends today with former enemies. Some of our closest allies, decades ago, fought on the opposite side of these World Wars. This history should give us all faith in the possibilities for a better world.

Hopefully, the 250th year for America will see a world that is more peaceful, more just and more free.

On our 100th anniversary, in 1876, citizens from across our Nation came to Philadelphia to celebrate America’s centennial. At that celebration, the country’s builders and artists and inventors showed off their creations.

Alexander Graham Bell displayed his telephone for the first time.Remington unveiled the first typewriter. An early attempt was made at electric light Thomas Edison showed an automatic telegraph and an electric pen.

Imagine the wonders our country could know in America’s 250th year. Think of the marvels we can achieve if we simply set free the dreams of our people.

Cures to illnesses that have always plagued us are not too much to hope. American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream.

Millions lifted from welfare to work is not too much to expect. And streets where mothers are safe from fear — schools where children learn in peace — and jobs where Americans prosper and grow — are not too much to ask.

When we have all of this, we will have made America greater than ever before. For all Americans. This is our vision. This is our mission. But we can only get there together. We are one people, with one destiny. We all bleed the same blood. We all salute the same flag.And we are all made by the same God.

And when we fulfill this vision; when we celebrate our 250 years of glorious freedom, we will look back on tonight as when this new chapter of American Greatness began.

The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us. We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts.

The bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls. And the confidence to turn those hopes and dreams to action. From now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations, not burdened by our fears —inspired by the future, not bound by the failures of the past and guided by our vision, not blinded by our doubts.

I am asking all citizens to embrace this Renewal of the American Spirit. I am asking all members of Congress to join me in dreaming big, and bold and daring things for our country. And I am asking everyone watching tonight to seize this moment and —

Believe in yourselves. Believe in your future. And believe, once more, in America.

Thank you, God bless you, and God Bless the United States.

Senator (Vermont) Bernie Sanders’ Response to President Donald Trump’s Address to Congress

Wisma Putra and the North Korean Murder Snafu


February 28, 2017

Wisma Putra and the North Korean Murder Snafu–A Message to Foreign Minister Anifah Aman

by Dato Dennis Ignatius

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The heinous assassination at KLIA of Kim Jong-nam, half-brother of North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un, by North Korean agents grabbed headlines around the world. It was another reminder of the depravity, recklessness and ruthlessness of the regime in Pyongyang.

The assassination, however, also put the spotlight on Malaysia once again with the international media converging on Kuala Lumpur to cover the story. As is usual in such situations, our policies, personalities and processes come under scrutiny as well.

Wisma Putra’s role

Although the case is still ongoing, one thing is already clear: we would benefit from a more coherent and coordinated response particularly when dealing with a fast developing issue in the full glare of the world.

While the Police rightly took the lead in investigating the crime, Wisma Putra, which should have stepped in to cover the diplomatic and international dimensions of the case, was largely aloof, at least in the days immediately following the incident.

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Indeed, sources within the international media lamented privately that no one in Wisma Putra was willing to speak to them on or off record or answer questions relating to the case.

It was only after the North Korean Ambassador launched his unfounded and outrageous broadside against the government’s handling of the case that Wisma Putra finally found its voice and even then only to rebut the Ambassador.

Perhaps that was what Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Rahman Dahlan, was hinting at when he said, following last Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, that Cabinet wanted Wisma Putra to be more proactive on the matter.

Diplomatic immunity

Wisma Putra’s lack of intervention has also contributed to the ongoing confusion regarding the status of diplomatic personnel caught up in such cases. As late as yesterday, senior Police officers were still insisting that a North Korean diplomat either cooperate with the Police or face arrest.

The Vienna Convention (1961), of which both Malaysia and North Korea are signatories, is very clear on this – under no circumstances can a duly accredited diplomat be detained or interrogated unless his own country formally revokes his immunity. The only recourse that is available in such cases is to declare the offending official ‘persona non grata’ and insist that he leave within 24 hours.

This is basic diplomatic practice which no country would want to ignore, no matter how justified the circumstances, because it puts its own diplomats everywhere at risk. Certainly, Malaysia would not want to violate such a sacrosanct principle of inter-state relations.

Need to get our act together

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Wisma Putra needs to be professional and proactive

The fault, however, has as much to do with Wisma Putra’s failure to provide clarification in a timely fashion as with the way government agencies operate in times of crisis and the manner in which inter-agency cooperation is managed; there are simply no clear-cut rules for determining who takes the lead in such cases.

Clearly, we have learned little from previous experiences like the MH370 saga about the critical importance of putting in place a well-defined crisis response team together with a central spokesperson, someone who is trained, professional, knowledgeable and fluent in English to handle the press, serve as the main conduit for information and speak on behalf of the government as the situation develops.

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Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak is always in La Laland, instead of getting down to the serious business of government

This is pretty standard operating procedure in other countries; there is no reason why it can’t be done here as well.

A muddled Foreign Policy

The assassination also brought home the incoherence of Malaysia’s current policy towards North Korea.

That North Korea is a rogue nation, a serious threat to international peace and stability and a horrifically abusive regime is no secret. The real question is why Putrajaya has allowed North Korea to turn Malaysia into one of its most important bases of operation in the region from which to carry out clandestine activities, circumvent UN sanctions and engage in all sorts of illicit enterprises to earn hard currency for the regime.

A recent UN report noted, for example, that North Korea has flouted UN sanctions by relying on middlemen and front companies in Malaysia [and China]. It cited specifically the case of a Malaysia-based front company controlled by North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau which is tasked with overseas operations and weapons procurement.

North Korea also uses cities like Kuala Lumpur to access the international banking system in violation of UN sanctions.

Because of the relatively lackadaisical attitude towards North Korea, Pyongyang has gradually expanded its operations in Malaysia to the point where there are now about 1000 North Koreans operating in Malaysia, one of the largest North Korean expatriate communities in the region.

Given that North Korea is a highly regulated Stalinist-like state with no free enterprise and absolutely zero individual freedoms, it would be naïve to believe that North Koreans living in Malaysia are merely private businessmen, entrepreneurs or simple students. They are all agents of the state sent here on one sort of mission or another.

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The lack of proper oversight and surveillance of North Koreans in Malaysia also makes it doubtful whether any one actually knows what all these North Koreans are really up to. It was reported, for example, that one of the North Koreans implicated in the assassination came in on a work permit two years ago but never worked at the designated company.

Even before the assassination, Malaysia, with its generous visa-free regulations and lax visitor controls, had already garnered a reputation as an international haven for all kinds of shady people and activities. As was widely reported at the time, al-Qaeda, for example, held an important meeting in Kuala Lumpur prior to the 9/11 attacks.

The North Koreans are now exploiting this vulnerability for their own purposes.

Naïve and gullible

There is also obviously a certain amount of naivety, even gullibility, on the part of our officials when it comes to dealing with countries like North Korea. During the 13th Malaysia International Branding Showcase event last year, one of our senior trade officials gushed that “North Korea is now looking at using Malaysia as a gateway to Southeast Asia markets as it finds the country business friendly with pro-business policies.”

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Kang Choi, North Korean Ambassador to Malaysia

North Korea, which has hardly any exports worth talking about, was certainly looking at using Malaysia as a gateway but not for the kind of activities that our trade officials had in mind.

BERNAMA (the national news agency), meanwhile had discussions with North Korea to enhance cooperation in information-related areas while one private Malaysian university–HELP University–even awarded Kim Jong-un an honorary doctorate in economics, apparently for his “untiring efforts for the education of the country and the well-being of its people.”

One has to wonder what motivates such patently misguided and fatuous decisions.

Stung by the North Korean Ambassador’s undiplomatic and unwarranted criticism of Malaysia’s handling of the case, many of our ministers have now joined the chorus of condemnation against North Korea.

Our Minister of Tourism, Nazri Aziz, for instance, warned Malaysians not to travel to North Korea noting that with North Korea one could never predict what would happen. “They do all sorts of unimaginable things,” he cautioned.

He is, of course, quite right but then North Korea has always been unpredictable and unsafe. What the minister should be explaining is why North Korea was even allowed to open a tourism office in Kuala Lumpur and why Air Koryo was allowed to fly into KLIA until 2014 when the service was suspended due to UN sanctions.

For all the wrong reasons

The decision in 2003 to establish a resident diplomatic mission in Pyongyang was also baffling. Bilateral trade is almost non-existent and there are no pressing bilateral matters that require sustained engagement with North Korea.

How establishing a resident mission could ever be justified under such circumstances is a mystery.

It does suggest perhaps that we seem to establish diplomatic and consular missions too hastily and for all the wrong reasons. Instead of concentrating our limited manpower and financial resources to where it can make the most difference, we spread ourselves out across the globe – 111 diplomatic and consular posts in 85 countries – in the mistaken belief that diplomatic missions automatically translate into greater influence, respect and international standing. Singapore, by comparison, has no more than 45.

Reviewing relations with North Korea

For all these reasons, the Cabinet’s recent decision to review relations with North Korea is long overdue.

It’s time that Malaysia ally itself with all those, including China, South Korea and Japan, who are deeply concerned with North Korea’s egregious behaviour and the threat it poses to peace and security in the region.

Once the investigations into the assassination are completed, Malaysia should, therefore, move to downgrade relations with North Korea. Among the actions that can be considered is closing our diplomatic mission in Pyongyang, expelling the North Korean Ambassador (for his undiplomatic behaviour) and all other North Korean diplomats implicated in the assassination, revoking the visas of North Koreans working in Malaysia, ensuring strict compliance with all UN sanctions against North Korea and suspending all bilateral cooperation agreements.

While Malaysia is too far removed to be directly engaged in dealing with the North Korean problem, we can play a small and meaningful part in making UN sanctions against North Korea more effective, depriving it of an important base of operations in the region and helping further isolate the rogue regime in Pyongyang. And Malaysians would certainly be the safer for it too.

The Game Malaysia and North Korea play over a dead Korean


February 23, 2017

The Game Malaysia and North Korea play over a dead Korean

by Lim Sue Goan@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

 

The assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother Jong Nam would be nothing short of a spectacular movie in the spy thriller genre, should anyone use the recent event as a plot.

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The storyline is roughly there: A fanatical leader of a certain hermit state has been suffering from some kind of persecutory delusion, fearing that someone is going to unseat him from the pinnacle of power. Consequently, he gets his intelligence agency to orchestrate an assassination plan to get rid of his half brother.

So, four intelligence operatives land in the country where the target is found, and pick two young foreign women to carry out the killing. The four men also arrange to catch the next plane out when the assassination goes as planned.

These agents are masters of their trade. One of them had entered the country on January 31 while the other three arrived several days later. They presumably arrived at different times to avert the attention of security authorities.

They later found the two women, one Vietnamese and the other Indonesian, possibly with the help of some other individuals, believing they were the right candidates to put down Kim Jong Nam.

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The plan was drawn up in less than two weeks, including training the two foreign women, acquiring the poisonous fluid, tracking Jong Nam’s whereabouts, conducting site inspection and designing the escape route. The highly efficient plot worked, possibly with a little help from some insiders.

When the female suspects sprinkled the toxic fluid on Jong Nam’s face, the whole incident was closely monitored by the four masterminds from a nearby restaurant. Presumably, they were also ready to put a Plan B into execution if the female suspects had failed. They were supposedly still observing Jong Nam as he sought assistance, right until he slumped in the chair at the airport clinic.

The incident took place at about 10am in the morning, and the four suspects took the 12pm flight to Surabaya on the same day, arriving in Pyongyang on day four after making transits in three countries. The two women could have been abandoned by them, and could have been allowed to be arrested by the Police in order to give them ample time to flee.

From the leaked video of the klia2 CCTV footage, it could be seen that the two women were swift in their action. Their actions were nothing like the “prank” they claimed that they were carrying out for some men.

Elusive agents

The question is: how did the secret agents find out Jong Nam’s flight details and how many of them are still lurking in this country?

We know very little of these elusive agents. Malaysia and ASEAN have been doing a superb job in fighting terrorism, such that we could track down and know of certain militant group’s plans before they had a chance to act.

That being said, we still need to step up our cooperation with regional countries on the sharing of vital information on cross-border spies and secret agents to prevent autocratic regimes from carrying out their barbaric acts on our soil.

All police evidence point straight to Pyongyang, including the prime suspects being North Korean.

North Korean Ambassador Kang Chol has accused the Malaysian government of intentionally delaying the claim of Kim Jong Nam’s body in a bid to conceal the truth while colluding with external forces to tarnish the reputation of his country.

In view of this, it was absolutely necessary for the Malaysian government to take action, such as summoning Kang and recalling our envoy in Pyongyang.

Pyongyang must respect the laws of other countries. Malaysian law requires the next-of-kin to provide DNA for verification purposes before he or she can claim the body of the deceased.

Pyongyang cannot capriciously do what it wants. If the Malaysian Police fail to probe the case thoroughly, how are they going to answer to the international community? Our police have indeed carried out their job in a highly professional manner this time.

Subsequent moves by the Malaysian authorities show that we are ready to do anything even if it means our ties with Pyongyang being at stake. This will effectively prevent ourselves from getting embroiled in any unnecessary “diplomatic war” because mishandling of this matter could cause countries such as China, the United States, South Korea and even Japan to step in.

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Malaysia has always been practicing an independent, neutral and non-allied diplomatic policy, but as a small nation, we must never risk our national interests by throwing ourselves into the whirlpool of international conflicts involving powerful nations.

The evidence we have provided should be sufficient to pinpoint the secret hand behind this dramatic assassination, and get the United Nations to intensify the sanctions imposed on Pyongyang.

Conventional logic does not apply to an impressionable and tyrannical leader of an autocratic state. It is now time to review our diplomatic policy to stop us from getting sucked into any international conspiracy.

Lim Sue Goan writes for Sin Chew Daily.

 

 

Policy uncertainty threatens trade growth, says World Bank


February 22, 2017

Policy uncertainty threatens trade growth, says World Bank

Warning on protectionism and threats to trade agreements in Trump era

https://www.ft.com/content/9d49b092-f859-11e6-9516-2d969e0d3b65

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Political uncertainty is slowing trade growth, a World Bank report has concluded, indicating that the rise of Donald Trump may already be casting a shadow over the global economy.

Major international institutions such as the IMF, the OECD and World Bank have recently upgraded their forecasts of global economic growth largely due to expectations that tax cuts, rising infrastructure spending and a wave of deregulation will boost the US economy under the new president. But the report by World Bank economists, released on Tuesday, highlights the fragile state of one historically important engine of global growth — trade.

To the extent that the policy uncertainty will remain high we should continue to expect [global] trade growth to be subdued. Michele Ruta, World Bank report co-author

The study avoids naming Mr Trump, but highlights rising protectionism and threats to unwind trade agreements — such as those made by the president. It also raises the prospect that attempts by the Trump administration to force companies to repatriate global supply chains to the US could undermine efforts to boost lagging productivity growth. To the extent that the policy uncertainty will remain high we should continue to expect [global] trade growth to be subdued Michele Ruta, World Bank report co-author International trade has been growing below historic trends for the past five years. The 1.9 per cent growth recorded in 2016, according to the team at the bank, was the slowest since the 2009 collapse in commerce that followed the global financial crisis.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office at the White House–The Future of NAFTA

The team found that some of the reasons for the anaemic trade growth, which affected both developed and developing economies, were broader trends such as slow economic growth around the world and a collapse in commodity prices. But in 2016 the principal change was a surge in uncertainty about economic policy. According to the World Bank’s calculations, such uncertainty was responsible for 0.6 percentage points of the 0.8 percentage-point fall in trade growth between 2015 and 2016. The team at the bank based their figure on a study of the relationship between trade and economic policy uncertainty in 18 countries over three decades. They added they expected the impact to continue in 2017. “To the extent that the policy uncertainty will remain high we should continue to expect [global] trade growth to be subdued,” said Michele Ruta, one of the authors. The World Bank team also sought to quantify the impact of trade agreements on global trade growth. World trade grew at an annual rate of 6.53 per cent between 1995 and 2014, they calculated. Had no new members — including China — joined the World Trade Organisation or no new trade agreements been signed, international trade would have grown at just 4.76 per cent annually, they found.

One of the big consequences of the explosion in trade deals in recent decades has been the emergence of global supply chains. Such chains are widely seen by economists to have made businesses more efficient and boosted productivity. But Mr Trump and his administration have said they want to unwind those international supply chains and bring them home. “It does the American economy no long-term good to only keep the big box factories where we are now assembling ‘American’ products that are composed primarily of foreign components,” Peter Navarro, one of the president’s top trade advisers, told the Financial Times last month.

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According to the World Bank team such a move, coupled with unwinding existing trade agreements that have encouraged the establishment of international supply chains, would hurt productivity growth. “Preserving and expanding the reach of trade agreements, rather than backtracking on existing commitments, would help to sustain the growth of productivity,” the bank’s economists wrote.

The Kim Jong-nam Assassination: Tussle between China and North Korea


February 21, 2017

The Kim Jong-nam Assassination:Kuala Lumpur caught in an Ongoing Tussle between Beijing and Pyongyang

As dramatic and disturbing as the assassination of Kim Jong-nam is, it is simply a sideshow in the ongoing tussle between Beijing and Pyongyang. 

An uppity client state 

North Korea has long been a Chinese client state. It owes its very existence to China which also accounts for 89% of North Korea’s foreign trade. Chinese economic assistance, food aid and investments literally keep North Korea afloat.

As a client state, North Korea is expected to be mindful of China’s overall strategic interests in the region. No one, however, apparently briefed North Korea’s brash young leader about the niceties of client state behaviour. Since coming to power in 2011, Kim Jong-un’s actions have caused alarm and concern in Beijing.

His nuclear weapons programme and poorly timed missile testing threaten to upset the delicate balance of power that China is seeking to maintain in East Asia at a time when there is an unpredictable new occupant in the White House. The Chinese were also chagrined by the 2013 execution for treason of Kim’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, who was well respected in Beijing. There were also a number of other unpleasant incidents between the two countries involving the treatment of Chinese investors and businessmen in North Korea.

More than anything else, however, a credible nuclear capability would give the North Korean dictator greater manoeuvrability vis-à-vis China and other powers, a worrying prospect for the Chinese leadership. As one Chinese professor put it, “If we choose an ally that can’t be tamed, we might become the biggest loser.”

To show its displeasure, China joined the international criticism of North Korea’s missile tests and last week rejected a shipment of coal from North Korea.

A slap in the face

Kim Jong-nam’s assassination has now plunged China-North Korea relations to a new low. It was no secret that Kim Jong-nam, the elder half-brother of Kim Jong-un, was under China’s protection, having lived in China since he fell from favour more than a decade ago. His presence in China was a constant reminder to Kim Jong-un that China had a convenient replacement, one who had perhaps a better claim to the throne as the eldest son, if he proved too unreasonable. For that reason alone, Kim Jong-nam was a marked man.

However, not even the mercurial and impulsive North Korean leader would have dared act against his half-brother while he was on Chinese soil. It would have been an insult that China would simply not have tolerated.

Malaysia, on the other hand, with its open doors, lax security and indulgent attitude towards North Korea is another story. Certainly, the North Korean leadership would not have expected that Malaysia would react the way it did. The law of unintended consequences just keeps cropping up in international affairs.

The reaction from Beijing was also not long in coming. Shortly after the assassination, China suspended all shipments of coal from North Korea until the end of the year. While the move was presented as part of China’s efforts to implement UN sanctions against North Korea, it is almost certainly a direct response to the Kim assassination in Kuala Lumpur.

As coal is North Korea’s single largest export item to China, the suspension is bound to hit the North Korean regime particularly hard. No doubt other measures are being planned as well although China is unlikely, at least at this stage, to attempt regime change in Pyongyang.

A tougher than expected response

In the immediate aftermath of the assassination, Malaysia appeared to go out of its way to avoid doing anything that would further exacerbate the situation. The Home Minister indicated that the body would, in due course, be returned to Pyongyang in accordance with international practice. He also insisted that the incident would not affect bilateral relations.

The provocative response of the North Korean Ambassador, however, appears to have stiffened Malaysia’s resolve.

In two rambling press conferences, the Ambassador accused Malaysia of a litany of offenses – colluding with his country’s enemies, scheming to implicate North Korea in the assassination, roughing up North Korean citizens and violating human rights and international law.

Failure to respond appropriately to such a provocation would have made the Malaysian government, already beset by a number of domestic scandals, look weak.

Interestingly, while the Ambassador alluded to South Korea when he accused Malaysia of colluding with “hostile forces,” his comments could apply to China as well.

Wisma Putra, which was largely silent in the early days of the drama, quickly responded by summoning the North Korean Ambassador for a dressing down. More significantly, Wisma Putra announced that Malaysia’s Ambassador in Pyongyang had been recalled for consultations – the strongest diplomatic show of displeasure short of breaking off relations.

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Recalling our Ambassador is absolutely the right thing to do given that it is now pretty clear that North Korea was complicit in the assassination. No country can look with equanimity upon such outrageous behaviour.

The North Korean Ambassador is, of course, in a very delicate situation; he has a Damocles sword hanging over him. If he is not seen to be zealous and conscientious enough in defence of the regime, he could suffer the same fate as his predecessor who found himself at the wrong end of a firing squad after being recalled from Kuala Lumpur. It is this fear of the consequences of failure, as much as anything else, that might have pushed him to the point where his actions have now done serious damage to the bilateral relations. It is hard to see him continuing in his present post for long.

Such are the perils of working in the North Korean foreign service.

Diplomatic and protocol issues

The assassination also raises interesting protocol issues. According to Satow’s Guide to Diplomatic Practice, long the go to handbook for diplomats, “If the death [of a diplomat] takes place in circumstances where ordinarily an inquest would be held, the authorities in the receiving state should if necessary be reminded that it has been general international practice not to hold an inquest where a diplomatic agent or other member of a mission dies in office, whether in inviolable premises or not.”

Some would argue, therefore, that Malaysia did not have the authority to carry out the post-mortem and that North Korea is within its rights to demand the return of Kim Jong-nam’s remains given that he was travelling on a diplomatic passport.

However, it can also be argued that although Kim Jong-nam was travelling on a diplomatic passport he was not formally accredited here and is, therefore, not subject to the same protocol.

What this means is that Malaysia has a great deal of latitude in deciding how to proceed with the case. Given that other countries – China and South Korea come to mind – also have a vested interest in the outcome, Malaysia will have to tread a careful path if it wishes to avoid being caught up in the bigger power play that is unfolding behind the scenes.

For now at least, both China and South Korea will no doubt be pleased with Malaysia’s tough stance. They will take satisfaction that the investigation has resulted in prolonged negative exposure for Pyongyang that will both further isolate and discredit the regime.

What happens now will depend, to a large degree, on how things play out between Beijing and Pyongyang. Where the remains of Kim Jong-nam finally ends up will provide interesting clues.

Malaysia, which has been increasingly deferential to China – even quietly sending back to China Muslim Uighur refugees who sought asylum in Malaysia – will likely be mindful of China’s interest in the matter.

Rethinking Malaysia-North Korea relations 

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Address: Diplomatic Enclave Munhung-dong, Taedonggang District Pyongyang …Malaysian Embassy

If nothing else, hopefully the assassination and the angry North Korean response to Kuala Lumpur’s handling of the case will prompt a reassessment of relations with Pyongyang.

For some unfathomable reason, Malaysia has had a resident diplomatic mission in Pyongyang since 2003, one of only 23 missions in the North Korean capital. Unfathomable because trade is practically non-existent (with almost zero prospects of improvement) and there are simply no bilateral issues worth talking about that would warrant the expense of a mission.

Perhaps in a desperate bid to add some substance to the relationship, both countries even explored ways to enhance tourism, never mind that North Korea is a country with no outbound tourists and only a few, possibly insane, inbound travelers.

What is more preposterous, however, was the decision some years ago to quietly take in 300 North Korean workers to work in Sarawak’s mining sector. Why Malaysia would even think of employing North Korean workers – slave labour, to all intent and purposes, toiling in a distant land to augment the regime’s scarce foreign reserves – is a mystery.

Malaysia also plays host to an approximately 1000 strong tightly knit community of North Korean businessmen, restaurant workers and other dubious ‘professionals,’ all of whom are controlled by the North Korean embassy and serve the interests of the state in one form or another.

Clearly, this is a one-sided relationship that benefits North Korea rather than Malaysia. Certainly, not many Malaysian taxpayers will lose any sleep if our mission in Pyongyang is shut for good.