A new era of Cold War


April 2, 2018

A new era of Cold War

 http://tns.thenews.com.pk/new-era-cold-war/#.WsHC3CAxXIU

The large-scale expulsion of Russian diplomats may trigger developments that can prove disastrous for the world.

A new era of cold war

What could be regarded as a knee-jerk response, the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany and other European countries indicates that a storm is again brewing in the political capitals of the world as Russia is again in the limelight 100 years after the formation of great Soviet Union and its breakup almost 70 years later. The failure of diplomacy had earlier thrust two world wars on several nations across the globe in the subsequent years and the recent diplomatic shakeup and tussle between Russia and Europe should be seen in that context.

It is a test case for the United Nations and the world leaders to stop the incident of alleged poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter from converting into a possible trigger for a third world war in the near future.

The nations which experienced the effects of earlier cold war know the uneasy calm prevailing in the days of bipolar world and wish it should not haunt their lives again. However, the speed of action of the European nations and reaction of the Russia government indicates the situation is more complex than it appears on the surface.

Though the humiliating disengagement of Soviet Union was an event only to fill the pages of history books like thousands of other make or break incidents, and no one was there to mourn the demise of a great world power, the current Russian government holds the seat of the old empire and it has some obligations to offload the debt of erstwhile nation. Russia has lost its place as a partner of the bipolar world, but still holds one of the strongest and technologically advanced armies of the world.

Image result for Theresa May expels Russian diplomats

Since President Vladimir Putin took over rein of the government in Kremlin, mistrust was the only constant in the calculus of relations between European Union and Russia. After the poisoning incident, the British Prime Minister Theresa May suspected that Russia had carried out the ‘acts of aggression’ against their shared values and interests within their continent and beyond and that the United Kingdom would stand by the European Union and NATO to face down any threat.

The poisoning incident shows it is still difficult to avoid conflicts, tensions, risks and proxy missions between Russia and rest of the Europe and the United States. The level of mistrust is still high as it was intact during the cold war and the London episode has the potential to spark a new wave of cold war across the globe when economy is the only priority for various nations. In starting a new cold war, which the Russian experts deny to have any in their operational strategies, Moscow will have to understand new realities and ground realities within its region.

The United Nations has no ability to play any role when the matter is between world powers. The Russian diplomats have been expelled and the ball is now in Kremlin’s court to react.

More than 20 countries, including Ukraine, one of the principal and powerful components of the Soviet Union, as well as tiny republics of Latvia and Estonia have expelled over 100 Russian diplomats as sign of solidarity with the United Kingdom. The experts of international relations are not afraid of the beginning, but fear the emerging developments and its end. Russia is not Soviet Union, but legacy of the old era that still exists within the corridor of powers in Kremlin and where unhealed wounds of defeat in Afghanistan still need a reactive remedy. The country is again flexing its muscles for a possible showdown against western powers, but without any ideological backup in the rear end. However, military power has the guts to act and react in any situation on the basis of which Russia wants to grasp the lost place as a negotiation partner in place of the Soviet Union.

The world media is already ripe with reports that Russia and China are in the process of developing new generation of hypersonic weapons and the current missile shields of the United States would simply not work. It means the later will have to develop a defence system to match the missiles of hypersonic capabilities and the experts of international affairs fear a new race for the weapons of mass destruction would start. The situation could turn into a disaster as former US President George Bush scrapped the Anti-Ballistic Missile Accord with Russia, a Cold War-era treaty, in 2002.

Though the Russian economy is not showing an outstanding performance, it is on the right track and is developing at a comfortable rate. On another note, China has its own version of economic war with the United States with potentials to become the largest economy of the world. China is also emerging as the military power in the coming decades and its understanding of political matters with Moscow gives credence to the notion that the concept of unipolar or bipolar is heading for an end. The world is increasingly coming together where economic interests are more important than lands and areas.

Syria has become hotspot of the world conflicts where American and Russian forces have bases and are vigorously protecting their national interests. But any folly from any side can spark an unending conflict which could not only engulf the entire Middle East region but also runs a risk of spilling over to many other countries.

Image result for The United Nations

The United Nations has no ability to play any role when the matter is between world powers. The Russian diplomats have been expelled and the ball is now in Kremlin’s court to assess the damage to its foreign policy affairs. However, a foreign ministry official in Kremlin has resolved not to bow to the diplomatic war, not be intimidated and a tougher response should be expected from them.

Russia has long been blamed for flouting international norms in the course of history, as it allegedly annexed Crimea in 2014, shot down a Malaysian passenger plane over eastern Ukraine in which 300 people onboard were killed, and attacked the family of former spy with nerve agent. However, the United Kingdom is no more a world power and the United States is losing its place as the economic power and diplomatic offenses from both sides to start another cold war will not do any good to the world peace. The poisoning incident could have been investigated in coordination with Russian officials. After all, collaboration is better than confrontation.

 

Greetings from Kuala Lumpur and Phnom Penh for Xmas and 2018


December 23, 2017

Greetings from Kuala Lumpur and Phnom Penh for Xmas and 2018

Image result for merry christmas and happy new year
Dr. Kamsiah Haider in Kuala Lumpur and Din Merican in Phnom Penh wish all our friends and associates around the world a Merry Christmas 2017 and prosperous New Year, 2018. We are indeed grateful for your warm friendship and support we enjoyed during 2017. We forward to working with you in the coming year and together we can make our world a better place.
Image result for Din Merican and Kamsiah Haider
We have little time for politicians and ideologues as they are a crop of egoistic, misogynistic  and greedy people. All we have to do is to look at Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan and other places to see for ourselves their handiwork. People are their victims, especially women, children and the elderly. They have lost the moral high ground and we must put our differences aside and work hard for peace.
On the occasion of Christmas and the New Year 2018, may we ask Michael Jackson to sing for us his famous song, Make The World a Better Place. –Dr. Kamsiah Haider and Din Merican.

The Sovereignty that Really Matters


October 23, 2017

The Sovereignty that Really Matters

by Javier Solana

The preference of some countries to isolate themselves within their borders is anachronistic and self-defeating, but it would be a serious mistake for others, fearing contagion, to respond by imposing strict isolation. Even in states that have succumbed to reductionist discourses, much of the population has not.

Image result for Javier Solana

MADRID – In his famous “political trilemma of the world economy,” Harvard economist Dani Rodrik boldly claims that global economic integration, the nation-state, and democracy cannot coexist. At best, we can combine two of the three, but always at the expense of one.

Until recently, the so-called Washington Consensus, with its emphasis on liberalization, deregulation, and privatization, shaped economic policy worldwide. While the 2008 global financial crisis eroded its credibility, the G20 countries quickly agreed to avoid the protectionist policies against which the consensus stood.

Image result for dani rodrik trilemma

Meanwhile, the European Union remained (and remains) the only democratic experiment on a supranational level, taking pride in its promising advances, despite being burdened by multiple defects. In other words, economic integration, anchored in the nation-state, remained in favor globally, while democracy was made secondary to international market dynamics.

But 2016 marked a turning point, though we still do not know toward what. A “Beijing Consensus” has emerged, which some view as an alternative model of development based on greater government intervention. But it was the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump as US president that really reflected the move to upend the long-established balance among globalization, the nation-state, and democracy.

“Let’s take back control” was the Brexiteers’ winning slogan, expressing a sentiment that clearly resonated with the slim majority of British voters who supported withdrawal from the EU. Likewise, many Trump voters were convinced that the accumulated powers of Wall Street, transnational players, and even other countries had to be reined in to “make America great again.”

It would not be wise to scorn this diagnosis, to which Rodrik himself subscribes (at least in part), just because one dislikes the proposals put forward by Trump and some of the Conservative proponents of Brexit. Their approach consists in hindering globalization – while maintaining or even enhancing other aspects of the Washington Consensus, such as financial deregulation – and strengthening democracy through the nation-state.

Image result for Trump at the UNGA

In his first appearance before the United Nations General Assembly, Trump delivered a 42-minute speech in which he used the words “sovereignty” or “sovereign” 21 times –an average of once every two minutes. And in Europe, the United Kingdom is not the only country to be carried away by a neo-Westphalian current: Poland and Hungary are in its grip as well. Even the Catalan pro-independence movement, headed by various parties, most of which would not feel comfortable being labeled “anti-globalization,” follows a similar logic of retreat into nationalism.

All of these forces overestimate their capacity to dilute or circumvent existing economic integration, which has been strengthened in recent decades by the rapid development of cross-border value chains. Unless these forces reverse course, they are more likely to dilute the influence that their nation-states (or the states they seek to create) might be able to wield over globalization. In short, an increase in formal sovereignty could paradoxically result in a loss of effective sovereignty, which is the kind that really matters.

Consider Britain: by exiting the EU, the British will have no say over what is, far and away, their most important export market. As for Catalonia, a supposedly pro-independence and pro-sovereignty movement could end up creating a polity that is less sovereign and more at the mercy of international events.

Just a week after Trump’s UN speech, French President Emmanuel Macron presented his vision of Europe’s future in an address at the Sorbonne. Macron also mentioned the word “sovereign” repeatedly, making it clear that it forms the basis of his vision for Europe. But, unlike populists, he favors an effective and inclusive sovereignty, European in scope and supported by two more key pillars: unity and democracy.

Relations between states are driven by cooperation, competition, and confrontation. There is little doubt that a certain degree of confrontation will always be present internationally. But the EU has clearly demonstrated that its incidence can be reduced by exponentially increasing the opportunity cost of conflictive dynamics. Unfortunately, the movements that understand sovereignty in isolationist terms usually revert to extreme nationalism, which is not given to promoting the common spaces that allow international society to prosper.

The preference of some countries to isolate themselves within their borders is anachronistic and self-defeating, but it would be a serious mistake for others, fearing contagion, to respond by avoiding engagement with these states. The spirit of cooperation, along with constructive competition, should structure relations between all players that possess international legitimacy. Even in states that have succumbed to reductionist discourses, much of the population has not. Such is the case of the 48% of British voters who opposed Brexit, or the 49% of Turks who voted “no” to expanding the Turkish presidency’s powers, implicitly rejecting a narrative that used the EU as a scapegoat. Many of these voters would surely be disappointed if the EU turned its back on them.

The vitality of international society depends on dialogue. And, to avoid perpetuating the deficiencies of the Washington Consensus, which were revealed with such clarity in 2016, this dialogue must occur within the framework of a common and democratic public sphere. If we cultivate this common public sphere, reducing the pre-eminence of the nation-state, we could advance step by step toward the least explored side of the triad described by Rodrik: global democracy.

Of course, a universal democracy would be a very difficult objective to achieve (Rodrik himself rules it out). But, with technological development and the multiplication of economic and cultural synapses, it is not a chimera. In this sense, the EU has already forged a new path, one that aims to expand democracy beyond the realm of the nation-state. For Europe, as well as for other regions, it is a path worth following.

*Javier Solana was EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Secretary-General of NATO, and Foreign Minister of Spain. He is currently President of the ESADE Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics, Distinguished Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Europe.

 

Populism and Trump’s Foreign Policy


October 23, 2017

Populism and  Trump’s Foreign Policy

by Frank Lavin*

https://www.georgetownjournalofinternationalaffairs.org/online-edition/2017/10/20/things-fall-apart-populism-and-foreign-policy

Image result for Donald Trump--Populist Foreign Policy

Donald Trump’s Foreign Policy is defined by his missteps and flamboyance.

Donald Trump confounds political observers. For many, he is defined by his missteps and flamboyance. His foreign policy statements contain sufficient imprecision—if not outright contradictions—to allow observers to conclude a lack of care in dealing with the issues. Is China’s presence in the South China Sea acceptable or not? Is NATO useful or not? Should the United States use force in Syria for humanitarian or geo-political goals? This ambiguity gives rise to further questions regarding his foreign policy architecture: what are the guiding principles?

Trump does indeed have guiding principles, but they are process principles and not the substantive principles that we are used to seeing in a president. What shapes his foreign policy is that which shaped his singular triumph in public life: his campaign. Indeed, Trump abjured several of the policies that have guided Republican campaigns of the modern era: entitlement reform, trade agreements, and international leadership. A long-time supporter of both Bill and Hillary Clinton, President Trump’s political success was drawn not from conservatism nor an intellectual architecture—though he has some conservative impulses—but from political populism. His worldview in many ways is an extension of that belief.

What is Populism?

This populism has four characteristics. First, it is grievance-based. It focuses on problems rather than solutions. This has the extraordinary advantage of giving the message potency because negative statements can motivate more effectively than positive ones, but it makes it difficult to form a governing coalition, since constituencies that have a problem with a particular policy might have even greater differences among its alternatives. Indeed, as a candidate, Trump avoided articulating a positive vision regarding even central pillars of his campaign such as health care. Notably, Trump’s main foreign policy pronouncements in the campaign were grievance-based: terrorism, trade and immigration. Equally noteworthy, they were all essentially domestic issues with a foreign genesis. The traditional foreign policy questions were largely absent from his discussions: What is America’s role in the world? What is the value of an alliance? To what extent should we promote democracy and human rights, or should the U.S. focus on national interest calculations?

Second, the populist must establish emotional connectivity with the audience. Trump tends to evaluate people largely based on how they connect with him. The rally format suits him well; he loves the audience and the audience loves him. There are no questions and answers, nor any discussion, nor does there have to be new information, but there is plenty of emotional connectivity. Importantly, this emotional connectivity has little to do with economic class, a point that can befuddle Trump’s domestic political opponents, who underestimate his working-class appeal on the basis that he personally has little in common with them or that his policies supposedly would not help them. To a populist, the first point is broadly irrelevant and the second point is highly debatable. Might many a construction worker welcome a construction boom, and many a restaurant worker welcome an expansion of the business, if it meant job security and a larger paycheck, even if it would create disproportionate returns to the construction company and restaurant owner? For many working men and women, a growth in inequality is not inherently troubling. Thomas Piketty might be right, but it might not matter to most Americans if returns to capital outpace returns to labor. In addition, when establishment elites mock Trump, from his grammar to his boorishness, a portion of non-elites see this as condescension.

Third, populism is exculpatory: Every problem the United States faces was caused by others and the target audience is blameless. So if a company wanted to relocate some activity to Mexico, it must have been to exploit wage differences. No discussion as to whether wage increases at the U.S. facility have outpaced productivity increases. No discussion as to whether union rules impede flexibility and productivity. No discussion of the fact that Mexico might be a better production platform because it has more free trade agreements. Management is to blame, with Mexico in connivance. This is frequently expressed in themes of anti-establishment or alienation, which can have a corrosive effect when anchored in grievances.

Fourth, policy choices are cost-free and without trade-offs. Cost-benefit analysis, transition costs, the challenges in administering a government agency, underperforming programs, secondary effects and unintended consequences – these are all incidental to the victory of the policy choice itself. As such, populists might as well berate NATO leadership into burden-sharing, ignoring the downside to publicly hectoring leaders of sovereign nations. They, too, might as well call for a physical wall on the U.S. border with Mexico since it will be, by self-declaration, cost free.

To be fair, others in public life exhibit some of these elements. President Obama’s healthcare plan was historically grandiose in scope, cost and complexity, yet it was ballyhooed to save money. Similarly, Obama’s eight-year effort to reduce U.S. commitments to NATO was to have no costs in terms of force projection, alliance cohesion, or deterrence. And, Obama was the only President in the modern era to have run against trade as a candidate, an approach Trump followed.

What Went Wrong?

How could the bipartisan consensus on U.S. international leadership fade so quickly, particularly at a moment when the combination of market economics and alliances of democracies had resulted in perhaps the most prosperous and most liberal moment in human history? There are four contributors to the rise of populism: societal transformation, grievance economics, international leadership, and elite limitations.

First, societal transformation – meaning both globalization and automation— has two profound socio-political effects. It produces an extraordinary degree of prosperity; and it carries with it a distribution effect. The bell curve of income distribution does not shift as much as it elongates. Few people are worse off, but many people are not better off. There is not necessarily the creation of a large number of winners and losers, but there is certainly the perception people getting left behind. Trump understands the message: The globalization club is having a party, and you are not invited. Silicon Valley is drinking champagne and your role is to pick the grapes. These trends also feed into the narrative of alienation because it decreases people’s control over their lives even as their overall prosperity increases. Globalization and automation have created economic anxiety in electorates around the world, and not just among steelworkers and coal miners. Realtors, bank tellers, school teachers, and cab drivers are all seeing competitive pressure and the prospect of job elimination. To many Americans, comparative advantage and creative destruction create a more prosperous society, but accompanying it is job insecurity. David Ricardo and Joseph Schumpeter might be right, but so what?

Second, over several decades we have seen a shift from growth economics to grievance economics. This represents a break with the recovery policies that guided the leading economies through the 1950s and 1960s (and that economic rationalists such as Macron tilt toward today). In the current view, the primary purpose of economic policy is not to foment prosperity, but to redress grievances. Indeed, regardless of absolute improvements in well-being, reducing economic inequality is deemed to be a basis for policy. The premise of growth economics is that a system is fundamentally fair, so the main challenge is how fast we can go. The premise of grievance economics is that the system is fundamentally unfair, so going faster merely exacerbates the unfairness. This cult of inequality incentivizes interest-group politics and rent-seeking, leading to slower growth. If you focus on growth policies, you get growth. If you focus on grievance policies, you get grievances.

A third cause is the shift in the U.S. international posture. We have seen a growing fatigue in the United States over the cost of international leadership. The U.S. entered the post-Cold War era with the institutions and the cohesion of the Cold War era largely intact, even though the end of the Soviet Union removed what political scientists term a “negative integrator.” Now we are deep into the post-post-Cold War era, with faded cohesion and institutions. For the first time since Harding and Coolidge we have two presidents in a row who have no international military or policy pedigree. Beyond the direct costs of international leadership in defense budgets and personnel, Americans seem more sensitive to the indirect costs of public opinion and anti-Americanism. Relationships can be expensive. Friendships can be complicated. If there is no immediate threat, and if no one likes us anyhow, then what is the point of foreign policy?

To sum up this point, imagine international Presidential leadership as a decision between whether to be a minute early or a minute late. Do you deter or do you react? Being a minute early requires leadership, because it carries with it the possibility of error and the cost of action without a consensus. “Left of Boom,” the British call it. Being a minute late and waiting until the problem has metastasized has the considerable benefit of allowing public consensus to build, and it is the less politically expensive approach. President Obama’s instinct is that foreign policy is better managed by being a minute late, such as responding after-the-fact to the Chinese build-out in the South China Sea, not confronting Russia on its intervention in U.S. elections, and perhaps in the cases of Aleppo or ISIS, Obama was more than a minute late. President Bush’s instinct was to be a minute early, foolishly so to his critics. Presidents have spent some  75 years since Pearl Harbor trying to be a minute early, with all the costs and mistakes that entailed, yet now we have two presidents in a row who believe we are better off being a minute late.

Finally, the appeal of populism has been driven by their perception of the limitations of the U.S. leadership class: insular, rigid, and sometimes simply mediocre. Additionally, over-engineered solutions and the appearance of being self-serving, if not corrupt, help the appeal of populism. Sometimes it comes from the declining marginal effectiveness of government programs as society becomes more affluent and complicated. Indeed, the Obama administration seemed to regularly play into the hands of populists, sometimes passively so, as with the refusal to challenge even the more exotic of the sanctuary city movement. Sometimes, it was by design as with the painstaking construction not to label Islamic terrorism as such. If responsible leaders appear to be playing favorites or not accurately describing a phenomenon, they abandon the issue to their opponents — a phenomenon Trump witnessed through his hesitation in characterizing the Charlottesville protests.

If populists rely too heavily on emotional connectivity, which establishment politicians have any emotional connectivity? Does there exist an aspirant for President, other than Donald Trump, who can have a friendly discussion with a Walmart cashier? How many of the possible 2020 presidential candidates have worked in the “real” economy, working for an institution that needed to turn a profit? Sam Rayburn’s wish to Lyndon Johnson, after LBJ had related how bright was his brain trust, was that he wished one of them had run for county sheriff. Can we today wish that one of the 2020 presidential candidates will have run a diner, which would have required them to hire teenagers, train high school dropouts, deal with single parents, lay-off workers from failed projects and negotiate wages, all while paying taxes and dealing with various government agencies? Maybe this is why a restaurant worker might respect an owner, or even a New York real estate developer, but not a career politician. If the elites cannot maintain that connectivity, they give an opening to populists.

Attaining political maturity contemporaneous with the Bush 43 invasion of Iraq, Obama was wary of American over-reach and committed to a foreign policy pullback. He embedded that withdrawal in a denial of American exceptionalism, a pillar of U.S foreign policy since Pearl Harbor. If you stop believing in yourself, it is difficult to ask others to believe in you. The rejection of America’s special role in the world helped set the stage for “Make America Great Again.” Was Barack Obama the ultimate Donald Trump enabler?

There other contributing factors beyond the above four. The rise of identity politics probably played into Trump’s hands, as did the digital communications revolution. News clutter rewards pugnacity and sensationalism and allows for cocoons and even tribalism. It is also worth noting that Trump is a man of unusual presentation strengths, and he can effectively project personality. Simply put, Trump was an exemplary grievance candidate in a grievance year. Trump articulated a vision; Hillary Clinton did not. We are in a communications era. For Secretary Clinton, communications is a means to an end. For Trump it is an end. She believes in her in-box; He, in his out-box. Hillary campaigned as the functionary; Donald as the visionary.

Is internationalism doomed?

America is now in the middle of a twelve and possibly sixteen year reign of two presidents who challenge the Cold War view that America is better off with a leading international presence, with being a minute early. It is too expensive, argued President Obama, and it leads us into unwinnable conflicts, draining our reputation and our purse. It is too expensive, echoes President Trump, and foreigners abuse and cheat us. Obama argues for minimalism because the United States is a problem for the world, and Trump argues for minimalism because the world is a problem for the United States.

Even as President, Trump is easy to underestimate. Appealingly so. Many critics derive amusement, even a sense of superiority, from his foibles. His factual errors and even spelling mistakes provide an opportunity for mockery, but the lazy epiphany of error-spotting is a poor substitute for a substantive rebuttal. And a significant portion of the criticism is either ad hominem or an over-reach, either of which helps Trump. Those who are serious about policy should look at the direction in which he is taking the country, rather than fixate on these errors.

To be even-handed, if President Trump’s distinctive success in the public space was his astonishing 2016 victory, in 2008 the distinctive success of Senator Obama was his astonishing election. Obama wisely chose not to run on his government record but marshaled his formidable stage skills and personal charisma to direct criticism toward Hillary Clinton and John McCain. So if Trump’s foreign policy approach stems from his success as “Ranter-in-Chief,” does Obama’s approach stem from his success as “Charmer-in-Chief?” Radically different styles, but with policy similarities.

The deterioration in U.S. foreign policy will likely continue for the near term. On any given day, the Obama/Trump approach may make sense. We should be a minute late. It makes sense to skimp, to cut defense expenditures, to reduce international good-will and connectivity, to save money all around. Relationships can be expensive and even harmful – this is the seduction of the minimalist school. But there is a countervailing argument.

The main argument against this minimalist approach will be events themselves. The minimalist approach might work in a static environment, but that stasis in itself incentivizes a destabilizer. At some point, history presents the bill. Only then will we be reminded, perhaps cruelly, that although on any given day it might be less expensive to be a minute late, as a matter of national policy we need to be a minute early. If we are not willing to pay the price to be left of boom, then we must pay the price for the boom itself. Worse than the expense and bother of having friends would be the expense and bother of not having friends.

Frank Lavin is the Chairman of Export Now. He served in the White House, National Security Council, State Department, and Commerce Department during the Reagan, Bush (41) and Bush (43) Administrations.

Former US Ambassador to Malaysia and State Department’s Joseph Yun on Rocket Man and North Korea


October 16, 2017

Former US Ambassador to Malaysia and State Department’s Joseph Yun on Rocket Man and North Korea

by Editor Rosemary O’Hara at rohara@sun-sentinel.com or on Twitter @RosemaryOhara14

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/fl-op-north-korea-rocket-man-rosemary-ohara-20171014-story.html

The first thing you notice about America’s key diplomat on North Korea is that he has a nice smile and a quick wit, attributes that help lighten the mood in tense times.

Image result for State Department Joseph Yun

 

It’s not that the questions he faced from a group of American news editors this week were tougher than those others are asking about the war of words between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — and the potential for this exchange to escalate into World War III.

Still, it was a delightful surprise that Joseph Yun agreed to an on-the-record interview Wednesday at the State Department’s annual briefing for opinion page editors — and that he opened with a laugh line.

“I understand you’ve been here since 9 o’clock and you’ve just had your lunch, so feel free to take a nap. We completely understand,” said Yun, deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs.

No one had sleep on their minds, of course. We were eager to talk to the man who describes his job as “our country’s designated engager for North Korea, the guy whose job it is to talk to North Korea and see what they want and where they want to go.”

Just two weeks ago, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged for the first time that we are in direct communication with the North Korean government over its missile and nuclear bomb tests, and a possible way forward.

President Trump tweeted at the time that Tillerson was wasting his time. “Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”

Five hours later, the President tweeted again: “Being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now?”

Image result for State Department Joseph Yun

Special Representative for North Korea Policy at The State Department Joseph Yun (left)

And he didn’t stop there. ”Sorry, but only one thing will work!” What does that mean? “You’ll figure that out pretty soon,” Trump said.

It was Trump’s threat to “totally destroy” North Korea that the Koreans took as a “declaration of war.” Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said Wednesday that Trump had “lit the wick of a war against us. We need to settle the final score, only with a hail of fire, not words.”

At the center of this maelstrom is Yun, a soft-spoken native of South Korea who’s been with the State Department for 33 years, most recently as ambassador to Malaysia. “It was a nice life. Next to a golf course. Very nice.”

You could feel the punchline coming.

“They thought I was getting very lazy,” he said. “So exactly a year ago, they asked me to come over to take this job … And I feel that what I owed in my 31 years before, I have paid back now.”

Before getting down to the nitty gritty, this instantly likable man offered one more quip. “I took this job in the Obama administration,” he said. “I am one of the few, I would say, ‘holdovers’ left. I think mostly because they don’t know I’m here. That’s off the record!”

Humility aside, Yun is undoubtedly well known to President Trump and Secretary Tillerson because as State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert also made clear that day, North Korea is the President’s top foreign policy issue. “That is the number one issue the President has asked Secretary Tillerson to engage in.”

Yun described how it’s going.

When he began his assignment, the North Koreans wouldn’t talk to him. They wanted nothing to do with anyone from the Obama administration. “They said they believed that the Obama administration was interested in a policy goal of regime change … ‘Why would we want to talk to anyone that represents an administration that believes in regime change?’”

Things changed after President Trump’s inauguration. “After January. 20, I would say things improved and really, we got underway with what we call ‘North Korea policy review.’ And in the review, we came up very clearly that we’re going to increase pressure on North Korea to denuclearize. But at the same time, we would leave room for engagement.”

To be clear, when Yun says “denuclearize,” he means North Korea must rid itself of all nuclear capabilities. Personally, I hadn’t realized that was the starting point for talks.

The policy, called “maximum pressure and engagement,” grew from North Korea’s failure to stop testing its missiles and nuclear devices. “In fact, in six years under the current leader, Kim Jong Un, they tested 80 times — over 80 times. Compare that with the previous six years, under his father, (Kim Jong Il,) who tested less than 20 times. So this was getting very much accelerated.”

To begin a dialogue, Yun invited his North Korean counterparts to New York in late February. But in early February, the North Koreans killed Kim Jong Nam, their leader’s half-brother, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital.

“Not only did they kill him, they killed him using VX nerve agent, which is classified as WMD by the United Nations. There was such an outcry that it was not possible for me to see them and of course we had to say, ‘Now is not the time for talks.’

“At the same time, we had three American prisoners in North Korea. So both President Trump and Secretary Tillerson, it’s their very high priority to get American prisoners out. So I told (the North Koreans,) ‘Can we discuss getting the prisoners out and maybe from there we can build a dialogue?’ So that’s when I went to Pyongyang.”

Image result for otto warmbier

The late Otto Warmbier and US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley

Among the prisoners was Otto Warmbier, an Ohio college student held for more than a year for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda poster from a North Korean hotel. Yun saw that Warmbier was not well. His parents later told Fox & Friends that when their unconscious son arrived home, he was blind and deaf, had a nasal feeding tube, was jerking violently and howling involuntarily, and that it looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth.

“So what could have been a very positive story turned out quite negative because not only was he unconscious, he came back home and he died in less than a week. As you can see, the public opinion in the U.S. was very much against that. And then, of course, North Koreans, as they rightly should, got the blame. And as a result, we have now restricted travel of all Americans to North Korea.”

 

Meanwhile, North Korea continued to violate world norms and test its missiles and nuclear bombs. In early September, it tested a device that “was probably 150 kilotons, which is, I think, about ten times bigger than the bomb that went off in Nagasaki. And of course they also tested intercontinental ballistic missiles that are capable of hitting Hawaii, hitting Guam and possibly the West Coast.

“So this is why you’re seeing the tensions heightened. There is a realization among the American public that there is a genuine homeland security threat. … And this is why you’re seeing open debate on: do we pressure them, do we seek a diplomatic path or do we seek a pressure path? And that, I think, is the really big issue of the day.

“I’m a diplomat. I work in the State Department. We have always said we should pursue pressure as well as a diplomatic path. And that is not an easy thing to suggest — to pressure someone at the same time to coax them to dialogue and diplomatic path. That is the challenge we face.”

On diplomacy, Yun highlights the Trump administration’s recent success at the United Nations Security Council in securing unanimous resolutions to strengthen global sanctions that limit North Korea’s coal exports, oil imports and overseas workers forced to send “loyalty payments” home.

“These guest workers are essentially slave labor,” spokeswoman Nauert later added. “They don’t get to keep their own money. That money goes back to the Kim Jong Un regime … That doesn’t go to feed his own people, to provide medical care to his own people. He uses it to fund extremely expensive weapons programs. We believe that with the sanctions, we could remove money going to those programs.”

It’s impressive to see the growing list of nations severing ties with North Korea and expelling its ambassadors. Since mid-September, they include Peru, Mexico, Italy, Spain, Kuwait, Egypt, the Philippines and on Thursday, the United Arab Emirates.

China remains the biggest holdout. And since China accounts for over 90 percent of trade with North Korea, “it’s crucial that China does its part in sanctions,” Yun says.

On the other end of the spectrum, South Korea and Japan, our close allies, “have been very solid in being with us in all aspects of sanction policy as well as diplomatic policy,” he added.

“So that’s where we are. And obviously this thing hasn’t yet run its course. I would pose to you that this is a difficult problem that’s been with us for many decades. Their nuclear program probably started in the ‘60s. The first nuclear agreement we reached with them was in ’94. …The second nuclear agreement we reached with them was in six-party talks that went from about 2003 to 2008. So we’ve seen many generations of this and this is a serious problem that’s become even more serious because of the homeland threat.”

With that, Yun took questions.

What about former President Jimmy Carter’s call to send a high-level delegation to Pyongyang for peace talks or to convene an international conference that includes North and South Korea, the United States and China?

“Clearly we’re open to any approach, but let me be frank with you. … The North Koreans have made it clear to me, as well as to the world, that they want to talk to the U.S. They’re not that interested in talking to anyone else, that this is a problem between North Korea and the United States. So I’m not sure internationalizing it, that they would accept that. … North Korea has said they don’t want six-party talks. What they want to do is talk to us.”

Do we want to talk to them?

“I think we are very much open to talking to them. You’ve seen Secretary Tillerson say that. We want to talk to them. But we also do believe at the same time, they have got to come to talks with some degree of credibility and seriousness. They have agreed many times in the past that denuclearization is also their goal. But they have recently removed that. They said they would not denuclearize. And so that’s a problem for us. If you come to talks and say you’re not going to denuclearize, I’m not sure really what the future of those talks are.”

Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist, recently said that as long as North Korea has thousands of rockets trained on Seoul, there’s no credible military option that doesn’t result in the deaths of millions of South Koreans as well as thousands of U.S. troops stationed there. Is he correct?

“You’ll have to ask my colleagues in (Department of Defense.) My main job is diplomacy. It’s not to pull triggers. This is outside, really, my lane.”

Why do we expect sanctions to change North Korea’s behavior when they haven’t for decades? And if North Korea doesn’t commit to denuclearization, are we saying we won’t go to the table to talk?

“I would say sanctions can be effective if implemented fully and properly. As I have alluded, China has about 90 percent of trade, so the burden does fall on China. It’s very different, by the way, than Iran, where there were many trading partners. In this case, it is China. So really, when you say sanctions have not worked, I think it is because sanctions have not been fully implemented by China. Why? That is a question we’re always trying to come to grips with.

“I think the common view among the analysts is that China fears the collapse of North Korea more than it fears a nuclear North Korea. They fear if North Korea were to collapse, then U.S. troops might move in along with South Koreans … And if you remember from the Korean War, that is also when the Chinese got into it, when it looked like (Gen. Douglas) MacArthur was driving U.S. troops and South Korea troops up there. So that’s their principle concern.

“This is why we’ve said to them, to reassure them, Secretary Tillerson has said our policy has four no’s. Number one, it is not about regime change. Number two, it is not about bringing on regime collapse. Number three, it is not about forcing reunification of the Korean Peninsula. And number four, it’s not about stationing American troops north of the DMZ. That was to reassure not just the North Koreans, but the Chinese that this is not about us pushing up beyond DMZ, but rather, it’s about denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula.

“Denuclearization is the end goal of U.S. government policy, and it has been for the past three decades. You can ask questions about why it failed, but you’d have to give me another two hours.”

There it was. A small chuckle, in a conversation that had grown tense.

North Korea has looked at what happened in a denuclearized Libya, and America’s doubtful adherence to the Iran nuclear agreement. Is it realistic to expect Kim to follow a similar path? If he doesn’t, are we looking at South Korea and Japan getting nuclear weapons, or is that threat simply a way to get China’s attention?

 

“This is, of course, what China fears. But if this situation continues, I can predict to you that South Korea and Japan will want stronger and stronger weapons, defensive weapons, or even offensive weapons to counter North Korea’s nuclear weapons … So you are staring at what looks like an arms race. And what is the logical conclusion to that?

“Already, we are seeing South Koreans, conservative South Koreans, wanting indigenous nuclear weapons. And if we have that, if we have South Korea go nuclear, and Japan go nuclear, that will be practically the end of NPT (the landmark 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty on nuclear weapons.)

“And NPT, in my view, certainly has been one of the most successful, post-Second World War treaties we’ve had, limiting the number of countries with nuclear weapons. The P-5 — Russia, U.S., United Kingdom, France and China — and there’s only a handful of others, Pakistan, Israel and India. So really, if you imagined in the ‘60s that nuclear weapons would be limited to these few countries, people would have thought you were dreaming. South Korea actually gave up nuclear weapons in the ‘70s because we asked them. So you can imagine if this goes down the path, the logical conclusion. … It will be a nuclear Northeast Asia.”

Why do you think South Korea is less concerned by recent events? And what do you think when you hear the trash talking — the “Rocket Man.” Does that make your job more difficult?

That’s also outside my lane. (Crowd chuckles.) What was that first question?

Are we facing World War III tomorrow or more years of diplomacy?

South Koreans in general have become inured to threats from North Korea. Remember, they are facing all these thousands of artillery just across the DMZ, which is about 35 to 40 miles away from Seoul, the center of population. So they have become fairly inured to threats from Pyongyang. In my view, I think for Americans, this is a threat that was somewhat unexpected, even though those who have followed North Korea issues have been predicting it for a while.

“I do think this is a serious issue. I do welcome the public joining the debate on how to deal with this. What is the right strategy? What does it mean to sanction a country and why are we doing it? Why do we have such a difficult partner or are we being difficult? These are all questions that are worth asking.

“In the end, I am again from diplomacy school and I would like to think there is a path out there. I would like to think there’s a path that could deliver: number one, lower tensions; number two, try to meet minimum requirements of each other; and number three, build some kind of relationship, build a little bit more trust in each other. I would like to think that is possible, but again it remains to be seen.

“Meanwhile, since this poses such a threat, we also have to believe we have to put all options on the table and that would have to include a military option. This is not an empty threat. If your homeland is under such a scrutiny and threat, I do believe you have to put all options on the table.”

What about those other American prisoners? What can you tell us about your conversations with them?

“We raise this at every opportunity. Protection of our prisoners overseas is an incredibly important mission for the State Department, so that really takes priority over anything else. I don’t want to go into too much detail about what kind of conversation we had. They were rather restricted because we were not just the two of us. We had a representative from their government there as well.”

“There are actually three remaining detainees in North Korea. I did see them when I was there in June, but nobody has seen them since then. I assume they are still alive. We have an arrangement with the Swedish Embassy, where the Swedes look after our consular cases. And the Swedes have not seen them, either, since June.”

After spending about 40 minutes with our nation’s key diplomat on North Korea, I came away thinking we were lucky to have him. But I grapple with our policy of not holding talks unless the North Koreans first agree to give up their nuclear capabilities.

Why would Kim do that, I asked my colleagues. He would lose face. It could spell his end. And if you back someone into a corner, there’s only one way out — straight at you.

My colleagues countered: We’re asking Iran to forego nuclear weapons. Besides, his people remain incredibly repressed. They wouldn’t rise up like the Arab Spring.

As to the policy of making North Korea give up its nuclear capabilities altogether, spokeswoman Nauert said there’s no other choice.

“If North Korea were to become a fully nuclear-capable country with weapons that are able to hit folks around the world, we know that North Korea would not contain itself,” she said. “We know that North Korea would sell those weapons and sell its technology. So the idea of containment may sound nice and rosy, but in reality, there’s no one out there who believes that North Korea could be contained.”

The best way to force Kim to give up his nuclear arsenal — as Trump, Tillerson and Yun have all made clear — is for China to end trade and oil shipments if he doesn’t. Without these, Kim’s nation cannot survive.

On reflection, I began to see some value in Trump’s tweets. Not because they are helping to de-escalate tensions with North Korea, which they’re not, but because they are putting new pressure on China.

Another high-placed diplomatic friend, speaking off-the-record, offered me that perspective.

“China hates to be humiliated. China despises the fact that they’re going to be bullied. But they’re looking at Washington and going, ‘This guy is pretty crazy, right? Actually, he could be a real threat.’ And China cannot afford under any circumstance to have conflict on the Korean Peninsula. The last battle on the Korean Peninsula put China back 50 years in developing the One-China policy to their satisfaction.

“So now, it is quite clear that China wants to help — for the first time — in North Korea. All of a sudden, everyone understands the stakes and for the first time, China is reacting. Not at the suggestion of bullying by the U.S., but because Trump has been able, to some degree, to pull back with his public belligerence against China. But privately, (our diplomats) believe that China believes it has to try to get a solution here. And that is a positive development that President Obama and his predecessors couldn’t deliver.

“Conventional wisdom hasn’t worked. And the unconventional activity is making a difference.”

It’s not that “Rocket Man” is working. Bullying words distract.

But there’s a reason President Trump has maximized pressure on North Korea and gotten China to agree to a “complete, verifiable and irreversible” denuclearization on the peninsula.

 

North Korea is close, very close, to being able to rain nuclear hell on its neighbors and our homeland.

And while China might not have once cared if North Korea had nuclear weapons, recent provocations have changed the equation.

More than anything, China doesn’t want South Korea and Japan to acquire nuclear weapons, something Trump once suggested as a way to cut America’s defense costs in the region.

Neither does the world want to see more countries acquire nuclear bombs capable of killing hundreds of thousands of people in horrific ways.

As Yun says, “It’s crucial that China does its part in sanctions.”

And that’s no joke.

Reach Sun Sentinel Editorial Page Editor Rosemary O’Hara at rohara@sun-sentinel.com or on Twitter @RosemaryOhara14.

Copyright © 2017, Sun Sentinel

Aung San Suu Kyi unveils relief plans for Rohingya Muslims


October 16, 2017

Aung San Suu Kyi unveils relief plans for Rohingya Muslims

Nobel laureate aims to restore reputation by setting up civilian-led agency in Myanmar to deliver aid and resettle refugees

Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a speech to the nation over the Rakhine and Rohingya situation in Naypyitaw in September
Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised for failing to denounce a brutal army crackdown on the Rohingya in Rakhine state. Photograph: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has announced plans to set up a civilian-led agency, with foreign assistance, to deliver aid and help resettle Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.

A close adviser, speaking with Aung San Suu Kyi’s knowledge, said the proposed body had been long planned, and was part of an attempt to show the civilian government she leads, rather than the Burmese military, can deliver humanitarian relief, resettlement and economic recovery.

The Nobel laureate has been criticised for failing to denounce a brutal army crackdown on the Rohingya in Rakhine state, which has forced hundreds of thousands to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.

Thousands of refugees have continued to arrive in recent days from across the Naf river separating the two countries, even though Myanmar insists military operations ceased on 5 September.

Aid agencies estimate that 536,000 people have arrived in Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh, straining scarce resources of aid groups and local communities.

About 200,000 Rohingya were already in Bangladesh after fleeing persecution in Myanmar, where they have long been denied citizenship and faced restrictions on their movements and access to basic services.

The adviser said Aung San Suu Kyi had been deeply affected by the crisis in her country, and was determined to fix it, but needed to be careful not to inflame the situation further.

“She is appalled by what she has seen. She does care deeply about this. I know that does not always come across. But she really does,” said the adviser, who asked not to be named. “What was not clear to her [before now] was how to fix it, and how to give the civilian government the powers it needed”.

In a speech carried by state TV late on Thursday, Aung San Suu Kyi said: “There has been a lot of criticisms against our country. We need to understand international opinion. However, just as no one can fully understand the situation of our country the way we do, no one can desire peace and development for our country more than us.”

Many of Aung San Suu Kyi’s former allies have been exasperated by her failure to criticise the military, but the adviser said she was treading a fine line, knowing her government could become under threat of being overthrown by the military.

The adviser added her speech marked an attempt to wrestle Buddhism out of the hands of extremists.

Aung San Suu Kyi came to power ending years of military rule in a compromise that left the military with sweeping powers.

In her new proposal, she said she was setting up a new body to deliver relief and resettlement on the ground, as well as implement projects in all sectors of the region.

“It is going to be an implementation unit and will introduce a degree of transparency into the government that will allow the international community to participate and provide aid”, the adviser added.

The aim is for the body to be a vehicle through which recovery aid, including that delivered by the UK, can be funnelled.

Her adviser said Aung San Suu Kyi understood the moral priority of humanitarian assistance, the need to build new homes for those who had to flee as well as the need for economic development in the region.

“She has put herself front and centre of this and said ‘I will lead this’ ”. The adviser added: “She is someone who through her whole life has been committed to the values of human rights. That has not gone away, but she is very focused on fixing the problem, rather than identifying it.

“She recognises there have been particular tragedies amongst the Muslim communities, and amongst other small minority groups. But, yes, she does see this latest and most dreadful upsurge of violence as stemming from carefully timed political attacks on police stations.”

Aung San Suu Kyi’s speech made no mention of the allegations levelled against security forces, over which she has no formal control under the military-drafted constitution. State media in recent weeks, however, has offered repeated denials of the human rights allegations, often blaming misreporting by the west.

In her speech, she said: “Rather than rebutting criticisms and allegations with words, we will show the world by our actions and our deeds. In the Rakhine state, there are so many things to be done.”

Her adviser said: “She is trying to move away from inflammatory and divisive remarks towards a coherent national solution that is civilian-led. The perilous state of the democratic transition in her country is understood.”

Aung San Suu Kyi listed repatriation of those who have fled to Bangladesh as a top priority, a task that faces political and practical hurdles, notably due to the fact that tens of thousands of Muslim refugees who fled to Bangladesh do not have the documentation likely to satisfy the military that they have a right of return.

However, detailed work remains on possible forms of new registration to allow the Rohingya to return.

In another attempt to respond to western criticisms, Myanmar’s military has launched an internal investigation into the conduct of soldiers during the army’s offensive in Rakhine, which was launched after attacks by Rohingya insurgents on security posts in late August.