China Gears up for National Congress as Xi Seeks to Consolidate Power

Xi

China’s ruling Communist Party is preparing to hold its national congress on Wednesday where President Xi Jinping is expected to consolidate his power and head on a second five-year term in office.

Amid the stability he has achieved in China during his term in office, beyond the borders, the situation is not so calm.

There, he is at the mercy of two unpredictable men, US President Donald Trump and North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un – a predicament that points to the limits of China’s bid to project soft power, said an Agence France Presse report.

Some analysts say Kim could try to cause a stir by testing another missile or nuclear bomb in the middle of China’s most important political event, which is held every five years.

A new test could trigger another 140-character salvo by Trump, who has alternated between prodding and praising Xi’s response to North Korea.

Trump’s mercurial Twitter diplomacy has contrasted with Xi’s unemotional style. The US leader has also pointedly left Xi hanging over whether he will hit China with tariffs over trade grievances.

Despite the mixed messages, Xi has professed his friendship with Trump, confirming an invitation for the US president to come to Beijing next month, when they will discuss trade and North Korea face-to-face.

His relationship with Kim is also complicated.

The North Korean leader has already interfered with two international summits that the Chinese president has hosted this year, by staging headline-grabbing provocations.

In May, as Xi prepared to address world leaders gathered in Beijing on his signature Belt and Road initiative – a Chinese-led trade infrastructure program – the North successfully launched a new ballistic missile.

Then in September, it conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date, hours before Xi took the stage for a speech before leaders of the developing world at the annual BRICS summit.

The timing was seen as a slight towards Xi and an attempt by Kim to strongarm his Chinese neighbor into convincing Trump to sit down for talks.

A new nuclear test during the party congress “would be more than a loss of face. It will harm the ruling party of China,” said Cheng Xiaohe, an associate professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. “It will harm Xi Jinping at this crucial moment.”

On Wednesday, Xi will address the nation to lay out his political and economic vision for the world’s second-largest economy over the next five years.

Villages will broadcast news of the congress over loudspeakers, a security crackdown has been extended and monitoring of dissidents strengthened.

Xi, who is expected to get a second five-year term as party leader at the gathering, will kick off events with an address indicating whether his personal political theory will be entered into the party constitution alongside those of predecessors such as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

Xi’s speech is also expected to recommit the party to achieving the goals of a “moderately well-off society” by 2021 — the 100th anniversary of the party’s founding — and even greater national power and prosperity by 2049 — the centenary of the founding of the Communist state.

Those achievements will depend on continued economic growth and the lifting of millions out of poverty, alongside the continued rapid expansion of Chinese military and political power, including its growing ability to dominate the Asia-Pacific region.

While the nation’s presidency is limited to two five-year terms, the office of party general secretary is bound by no such restrictions. Xi, 64, could step aside for a younger leader while maintaining ultimate control from behind the scenes.

Whatever the outcome, most analysts say Xi has largely completed the task of sidelining his competitors in other cliques, including those surrounding his immediate predecessor, Hu Jintao, and former leader Jiang Zemin.

“Xi has been extremely successful in purging political rivals,” said Feng Chongyi, an expert on Chinese politics at Sydney’s University of Technology. “There will be only one faction left after the 19th congress.”

The 2,287 carefully hand-picked delegates to the congress are drawn from 40 constituencies, including the 31 provincial-level administrative districts, the government, the military, state industries and grass-roots organizations representing most of the party’s 89 million members.

N. Korea Readies New Missile Launch as US, South Hold Military Drills Next Week

Korea

North Korea is preparing for a new ballistic missile launch, a news report said on Saturday.

The test will be held ahead of joint naval drills between the United States and South Korea, added the Donga Ilbo daily that cited a government source.

Satellite pictures show ballistic missiles mounted on launchers being transported out of hangars near Pyongyang and in the North Phyongan Province.

US and South Korean military officials suspect the North might be preparing to launch missiles capable of reaching US territory, the newspaper said.

This could be the Hwasong-14 inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM), whose range could extend to Alaska, or Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missiles which Pyongyang threatened to fire towards the US Pacific territory of Guam in August, the report said.

Another possibility is that the North might be preparing to test a new Hwasong-13 ICBM, it added, that has a longer maximum range than the other two missiles and could potentially reach the US West Coast.

A defense ministry spokesman declined to comment on the report, saying: “We don’t comment on any matters of military intelligence. We are keeping a close watch over the North.”

The US navy said Friday that the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier will lead the exercises with South Korea in the coming week, a fresh show of force against North Korea. The move will likely rile Pyongyang which has previously responded angrily to joint exercises.

The joint drills led by the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier come after hectic US military hardware movements around the Korean peninsula in recent days.

These follow a flurry of missiles from Pyongyang, which conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test last month in defiance of international sanctions.

On Friday the nuclear-powered USS Michigan submarine arrived at the southern South Korean port of Busan, just days after another nuclear-powered submarine — the USS Tuscon — left after a five day visit.

Earlier this week the US flew two supersonic heavy bombers over the Korean peninsula, staging the first night-time joint aviation exercises with Japan and South Korea.

US President Donald Trump’s continued threats of military action against Pyongyang if it does not tame its weapons ambitions have fueled fears of conflict on the Korean peninsula.

On Friday however, he said that he was open to the possibility that negotiations can steady tensions with Pyongyang, but he appeared to suggest he was keeping military options open.

Trump told reporters at the White House: “If it’s going to be something other than negotiation, believe me we are ready more so than we have ever been.”

He was responding to a question about his comment last week before a dinner with military leaders when he referred ambiguously to “the calm before the storm.”

Trump recently declared that his top diplomat was “wasting his time” in trying to negotiate with the North.

Meanwhile, the European Union will agree on Monday to ban business ties with North Korea, part of a new package of sanctions to isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs.

The practical impact of the moves is likely to be mostly symbolic: Brussels will impose an oil embargo and a ban on EU investment, but it sells no crude to North Korea and European companies have no substantial investments there.

North Korean workers in the EU, of which Brussels estimates there are about 400 mainly in Poland, will face a lower limit on the amount for money they can send home and their work visas will not be renewed once they expire.

The measures to be agreed by EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg go further than the latest round of multi-lateral sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.

UAE Ends Mission of its Ambassador to North Korea

Abu Dhabi- The United Arab Emirates has terminated the diplomatic presence of the UAE non-resident ambassador to the Republic of North Korea, and Pyongyang’s ambassador to the country, in addition to taking other measures that consolidate the international community’s work in that regard.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, MoFAIC, has stated that the measures include stopping the issuance of entry visas for North Korean citizens and ceasing new business licenses for North Korean companies wishing to operate in the UAE.

The MoFAIC affirmed that the UAE has developed an executive framework in collaboration with state departments in the country to implement UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea and its nuclear program, primarily Resolutions 2371 and 2375.

It said it looked forward to international efforts aimed to stop the proliferation of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program that pose a threat to international peace and stability.

The statement added that the ministry’s measures come in line with the UAE’s responsibility as a full-fledged member of the international community.

In Show of Force, US Flies Bombers over Korean Peninsula

Korea

Two US strategic bombers flew over the Korean peninsula on Wednesday in a show of force by Washington against Pyongyang’s aggressive nuclear drive.

A South Korean Defense Ministry official said, requesting anonymity because of department rules, said the bombers simulated missile strikes off the peninsula’s east coast before flying with two South Korean jets to then stage similar drills off the west coast.

The two B-1B supersonic bombers flew from an air base in the US territory of Guam to South Korea for drills with that country’s jets.

The US military said in a separate statement it conducted drills with Japanese fighters after the exercise with South Korea, making it the first time US bombers have conducted training with fighters from both Japan and South Korea at night.

The flights came after a South Korean lawmaker was reported to have revealed that North Korean hackers may have stolen highly classified military documents.

Rep. Lee Cheol-hee, a lawmaker for the ruling Democratic Party who sits on the National Defense Committee, said defense sources told him that North Korean hackers last year stole the classified US-South Korean war plans, including parts of Operational Plan 5015, which includes procedures for a “decapitation strike” on the North’s leadership if a crisis breaks out or appears imminent.

The Defense Ministry after an investigation said in May that North Korea was likely behind the hacking of the Defense Integrated Data Center in September last year, but had refused to confirm media speculation that the decapitation strike plan was compromised.

Defense officials refused to comment Wednesday.

Lee, who didn’t specify his sources, said the plans allegedly stolen by the North include operations for tracking the movement of the North’s leadership, isolating their hideouts, executing air assaults and follow-up actions for securing and eliminating targets, which would obviously include North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“There is an urgent need for the military to change and update parts that were stolen by North Korea,” Lee said.

A preemptive strike against Pyongyang’s leadership would be difficult to undertake, but it’s widely seen as the most realistic of the limited military options Seoul has to deny a nuclear attack from its rival.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump met top defense officials to discuss how to respond to any threat from North Korea.

Tensions have soared between the United States and North Korea following a series of weapons tests by Pyongyang and a string of increasingly bellicose exchanges between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea has launched two missiles over Japan and conducted its sixth nuclear test in recent weeks as it fast advances toward its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland.

Trump hosted a discussion on Tuesday on options to respond to any North Korean aggression or, if necessary, to prevent Pyongyang from threatening the United States and its allies with nuclear weapons, the White House said in a statement.

Trump was briefed by Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford at a national security team meeting, the statement said.

Kim Jong Un: Nuclear Weapons Safeguarding Peace in Korean Peninsula

Kim

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared on Sunday that his nuclear weapons guaranteed the sovereignty of his country, state media reported.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons are a “powerful deterrent firmly safeguarding the peace and security in the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia,” Kim said, referring to the “protracted nuclear threats of the US imperialists.”

He made the declaration a day after US President Donald Trump said “only one thing will work” in dealing with the isolated country.

He did not elaborate on what he was referring, but his comments seemed to be a further suggestion that military action was on his mind.

In a speech to a meeting of the powerful Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party, state media said Kim had addressed the “complicated international situation”.

In recent weeks, North Korea has launched two missiles over Japan and conducted its sixth nuclear test, and may be fast advancing toward its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland.

North Korea is preparing to test-launch such a missile, a Russian lawmaker who had just returned from a visit to Pyongyang was quoted as saying on Friday.

Trump has previously said the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary to protect itself and its allies.

The situation proved that North Korea’s policy of “byungjin”, meaning the parallel development of nuclear weapons and the economy was “absolutely right”, Kim Jong Un said in the speech.

“The national economy has grown on their strength this year, despite the escalating sanctions,” said Kim, referring to UN Security Council resolutions put in place to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile program.

The meeting also handled some personnel changes inside North Korea’s secretive and opaque ruling center of power, state media said.

Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, was made an alternate member of the politburo – the top decision-making body over which Kim Jong Un presides.

Alongside Kim Jong Un himself, the promotion makes Kim Yo Jong the only other millennial member of the influential body.

Her new position indicates the 28-year-old has become a replacement for Kim Jong Un’s aunt, Kim Kyong Hui, who had been a key decision maker when former leader Kim Jong Il was alive.

“It shows that her portfolio and writ is far more substantive than previously believed and it is a further consolidation of the Kim family’s power,” said Michael Madden, a North Korea expert at Johns Hopkins University’s 38 North website.

In January, the US Treasury blacklisted Kim Yo Jong along with other North Korean officials over “severe human rights abuses”.

Kim Jong Sik and Ri Pyong Chol, two of the three men behind Kim’s banned rocket program, were also promoted.

State media announced that several other high ranking cadres were promoted to the Central Committee in what the South Korean unification ministry said could be an attempt by North Korea to navigate a way through its increasing isolation.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday that his government fully supports the US stance on pressuring North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, with all options on the table.

In a televised debate Sunday among leaders of major political parties, Abe said North Korea had failed to deliver on past promises to give up its pursuit of nuclear technology made during “six-party” talks with Japan, China, the US, Russia and South Korea.

“They used the framework of the dialogue to earn time so that they could develop their nuclear technology,” Abe said. “As the result, their nuclear capability has reached to this level and we cannot afford being deceived by them again.”

Analysis: Nobel Says to Korea Nuke Players: We are Watching

Nobel

They couldn’t award it to Kim Jong Un or Donald Trump. That much was certain.

But the granting of the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons opened itself to a clear interpretation across Asia: When it comes to the nuclear-saturated war of words on the Korean Peninsula, attention must be paid and treaties must be signed. And it must be done in a preventative way, at top speed, before something happens that can’t be undone, said an Associated Press report.

Looming in the background of the award announcement Friday was the sometimes scalding, sometimes tepid, never silent geopolitical scuffle this year between the young leader of the third-generation Pyongyang regime and the always voluble president of the United States.

Even the Nobel committee’s language keyed in on that. It sounded like a plaintive cry to push parties to the negotiating table — to fix something that’s already cracked before it’s completely, irreversibly shattered.

The head of the group listed an assortment of the world’s nuclear nations when she spoke after the win. But it was easy to find significance in the two she mentioned before all others — North Korea and the United States.

And this was the immediate assessment from a Nobel historian: “The panel wants to send a signal to North Korea and the US that they need to go into negotiations.” The prize, Oeivind Stenersen suggested, was also “coded support” of the Iran nuclear deal.

This year’s Geneva-based winner, known as ICAN, was cited “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.”

From the vantage point of the Korean Peninsula and its surrounding countries, where people shudder weekly at volleys of intemperate words and missile or bomb tests, such a treaty seems a distant dream. And few of the key players seem anywhere near a Nobel Peace Prize, said the AP.

North Korea just conducted its sixth and by far largest nuclear test, moving closer to its goal of mounting a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile. It has repeatedly threatened to obliterate the United States from the map.

Such bellicose language from the North is common. It has spent years issuing over-the-top dispatches through its propaganda apparatus promising to destroy the United States.

In recent months, however, Pyongyang’s invective has been matched almost blow by blow for the first time by equally aggressive language from Washington under the Trump administration, or at least Trump himself. The US president has shown no hesitation in cutting through the niceties of diplomatic lingo to excoriate the North and threaten to wipe it out of existence.

He has dubbed Kim “Little Rocket Man” and said his regime may not be long for this world. The US, of course, has one of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals, even after significant reductions since the Cold War. It remains the only nation on the planet to use nuclear weapons during a war.

In the past four weeks alone, Trump has used words like these, in a recent tweet: “Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at UN If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”

And Kim, who bestowed upon Trump the rarely used insult “dotard” and pronounced him senile, has used words like these:

“Now that Trump has denied the existence of and insulted me and my country in front of the eyes of the world and made the most ferocious declaration of a war in history that he would destroy (North Korea), we will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.”

Public posturing, sure. But not exactly language that points the way toward common ground, either.
The tension in word and deed between Washington and Pyongyang has faded slightly in recent days as the in-the-moment news cycle marches forward, but history shows that to be temporary. Another early-morning missile test, another intemperate remark or worse will put it right back on center stage.

The awarding of the $1.1 million prize to ICAN helps that happen, too, though even the group’s executive director, Beatrice Fihn, said she “worried it was a prank at first” when she got the call from the Nobel committee.

Against this backdrop — and in Northeast Asia, a region that remains the only place where nuclear weapons were used against a civilian population during a war — the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize in this manner implies one key point.

The influential body, which often uses the prize to set the agenda of where the light gets shone, is saying to Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump, among others: We’ve got our eye on you, and the world needs to look harder, too.

Trump Stands at the Edge of a Cliff with Kim Jong Un. Time to Start Dealing.

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Top US officials have said repeatedly that America is seeking a diplomatic solution to the nuclear crisis with North Korea. But President Trump’s insulting comments toward North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appear to have made such a negotiated settlement more difficult.

In the chaotic government-by-Twitter atmosphere of the Trump administration, no senior leader has publicly questioned whether the president’s trash talk about “Rocket Man” and his threat to “totally destroy” North Korea have undermined his own strategy. But there’s growing concern that, as former US diplomat and North Korea expert Joseph DeThomas wrote Monday on the 38 North blog, Trump’s comments “may have closed any remaining doors” to a quick diplomatic resolution of the standoff.

Experienced Korea watchers believe that Trump’s threats have deepened Kim’s resistance to concessions and that the North Korean leader is unlikely to back down in the face-off with Washington. By responding personally to Trump’s bluster and issuing his own counterthreats, Kim has attached his personal prestige and his family’s demigod status to the confrontation.

Trump’s disruptive comments have doubtless caused some head-scratching in Pyongyang, as leaders there try to discern the signal from the noise. But any benefits of Trump’s unpredictability were probably erased by threats to obliterate North Korea and its leaders if they remain defiant.

Officials who appeared hopeful about diplomatic prospects just a few weeks ago now seem concerned that Kim may seek another round of escalation. One possibility is an intercontinental ballistic missile test, arcing far out over the Pacific, to demonstrate North Korea’s range. North Korea could perhaps even mount a hydrogen warhead atop one of these missiles so that it exploded in the ocean, though that would risk prompt US retaliation. The North Koreans could also test submarine-launched ballistic missiles to demonstrate a second-strike capability following any US preemptive attack.

Conflict certainly isn’t inevitable, even after Monday’s claim by Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho that Trump’s UN comments meant “the United States declared war on our country.” But analysts believe Ri’s threats to attack planes that fly near North Korean airspace were serious. As both sides increasingly accompany their rhetoric with displays of military hardware, the risk of accident and miscalculation grows.

Korea watchers stress that for 70 years, North Korea’s identity has been that of a defiant small country, armed to the teeth, that survives by not giving in to any outside threat. The regime’s attitude is: “We don’t mind dying, but we’ll make you pay a price that you won’t want to pay.”

The Trump administration has hoped to use China as leverage against this meddlesome foe. But Pyongyang seems impervious to Beijing’s threats, too. Even as China has joined in UN Security Council sanctions, North Korea has denounced what it sees as the perfidy of its neighbor.

An example of Pyongyang’s indignation is an article titled “Chinese Media’s Shameless and Impudent Acts Blasted,” distributed Sept. 22 by North Korea’s official news agency. Calling sanctions “the dirty excrement of the reactionaries of history,” the article said North Koreans “really feel shame” when they see China “kowtow to the US.” The article describes an uncorrupted North Korea proudly resisting alone: “Though small in territory and population, the people of the DPRK have such fortune . . . standing against the ‘world’s only superpower.’ ”

Hopes that Kim’s inner circle may fragment as the confrontation escalates are probably misplaced. Senior North Korean military, intelligence and political officials appear convinced that if Kim’s regime implodes, they go down with it. The fate of Saddam Hussein’s family and associates offers a grim lesson that insiders can’t easily separate from the regime.

What road map might allow the United States and North Korea to move away from the brink? Probably it would begin with a concession from Washington that eased North Korea’s anxiety. One possibility would be a US proposal to limit the scope of the next joint US-South Korean military exercise, in 2018.

A wild card would be a dramatic gesture by Trump to “go to Korea,” as Dwight D. Eisenhower pledged to do in 1952, during the height of the Korean War. For a president who loves drama, it would be hard to beat a meeting at the demilitarized zone.

The first steps away from confrontation will have to be small. Trump’s rhetoric has probably torched the big bargain, for now. An initial statement to reduce tensions could be followed by other confidence-building measures, and then, eventually, by talks about de-nuclearization and reduction of US forces in the region.

The humbling lesson that Trump must learn: He has blustered his way to the edge of a cliff. Now he must stop fulminating and start dealing.

(The Washington Post)

Russia, N.Korea Discuss Nuclear Crisis in Moscow

Russian and North Korean officials announced that they will meet in Moscow to discuss the North Korea crisis, a move welcomed by the United States, which has been locked in am increasingly heated war of words with Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Oleg Burmistrov, Russia’s ambassador-at-large, would meet Choe Son-hui, director-general of the North American department of North Korea’s foreign ministry.

According to RT, Russian international television network funded by the Russian government, Russian and North Korean diplomats met in Moscow to discuss the Korean Peninsula crisis.

Burmistrov met Son-hui in the Russian capital on Friday. They met behind closed doors.

The officials “exchanged views on the current situation on the Korean peninsula and in north-east Asia,” the statement from the ministry said.

According to the ministry, Russia is ready to join efforts and “find ways to solve the problems existing in the region by peaceful, political and diplomatic means.”

Moscow once again backed a ‘double-freeze’ plan, which it advocates together with China. According to the plan, Pyongyang would suspend its nuclear and ballistic missile tests in exchange for a halt in joint US-South Korean military exercises.

The talks lasted for almost five hours, RIA Novosti’s correspondent reported.

Trump Evangelizes for American Exceptionalism

Trump

If you want to get a sense of the enduring power of American exceptionalism, watch President Donald Trump’s address Tuesday to the United Nations General Assembly. Here we got a clear message from the candidate whose foreign policy platform was “America first”: He implored the regimes of weaker rogues to clean up their acts, or else.

The president threatened total destruction for North Korea. Its leader, whom Trump called “rocket man,” is on a “suicide mission for himself and for his regime,” Trump warned. “The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary.”

Iran? The deal his predecessor struck to temporarily limit the nuclear program was an “embarrassment to the United States.” But it doesn’t end there.

Trump says that sooner or later revolution is coming to the Mullahs. He asserted the whole world “understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most.”

This was just the warmup. Trump went full neocon for Venezuela. Its leader, Nicolas Maduro, is a dictator “stealing power from his own people.”

Whereas Trump was vague about what his plan was for North Korea and Iran, for Venezuela he came very close to calling for regime change. “The United States has taken important steps to hold the regime accountable,” Trump said. “We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people.”

For a moment, I closed my eyes and thought I was listening to a Weekly Standard editorial meeting.

To be sure, this is not quite a return to the days of George W. Bush, who in 2005 made it briefly US policy to seek democratic transformation for friend and foe alike. Trump offered no critiques for the illiberal systems and strongmen that rule Russia or China. He briefly called out threats to the sovereignty of Ukraine and the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, without mentioning Russia and China by name.

And yet Trump, who ran in part against the folly of neoconservative nation-building, is also not quite ready to give up the power of America’s values in determining its interests. He calls his approach “principled realism.” And on the surface it nods to the respect traditional foreign policy realists pay to national interests. But there is also a paradox. Trump still wants nation states to serve the interests of their people.

Consider this line from the speech: “We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions or even systems of government, but we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties, to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation.”

On the one hand, Trump is correct. States with governments that respect their own people are almost always less bellicose than states ruled by authoritarians. Dictators like Vladimir Putin often must start foreign wars to distract from their own corruption at home.

At the same time, Trump’s formulation leaves a lot of wiggle room for what traditional foreign policy realists deride as military adventurism. After all, who determines when a nation is respecting the interests of its people? Trump certainly isn’t saying that is for the UN to decide. He spent a good portion of his speech threatening unilateral action against Iran, North Korea and Venezuela.

Trump’s newfound enthusiasm is familiar to the public. America has been spreading its gospel for centuries, according to Robert Kagan’s 2006 book, “A Dangerous Nation,” which traced US foreign policy from the founders to the dawn of the 20th century. Kagan argues persuasively that because America is a country founded on democratic revolution, it has always threatened unfree countries by its very existence. From the very early days of the republic, US leaders have supported a kind of American exceptionalism we usually associate with the 20th century.

Trump’s speechwriters are beginning to understand this. It’s a lot better than some of Trump’s early signals on foreign policy, when he ingratiated himself to dictators like Filipino strongman Rodrigo Duterte.

Let’s hope Trump sticks with this new approach.

Bloomberg

Beijing Orders North Korean Companies Operating in China to Shut down

China announced on Thursday that all North Korean companies operating in the country will have to shut down by January as Beijing applies UN sanctions imposed following Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear test.

The announcement comes days after China confirmed that it will apply another major part of the sanctions: a limit on exports of refined petroleum products to North Korea starting October 1 and a ban on textiles from its neighbor.

However, sanctions spare entities involved in non-commercial activities or public utility infrastructure projects that do not generate profits.

Beijing appears to be running out of patience with North Korea’s nuclear antics — the last test earlier this month triggered an earthquake that was felt in northeast China.

Branches of China’s biggest banks have told AFP that they have suspended financial transactions for North Koreans, a measure that is not required under UN sanctions.

According to AFP, the commerce ministry said the companies, including joint ventures with Chinese firms, have 120 days to close from the date the United Nations resolution was adopted, September 11.

In August, China banned North Korean firms and individuals from establishing new companies in its territory following a separate set of sanctions.

China’s application of UN sanctions is particularly biting for North Korea. Beijing is Pyongyang’s main ally and trading partner, responsible for around 90 percent of the hermit nation’s commerce.

The United States has pressed China to use its economic leverage to strongarm North Korea into giving up its nuclear ambitions.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit Beijing this weekend for talks with China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Tillerson will discuss the North Korean nuclear tensions, trade issues and President Donald Trump’s planned trip to China in November, the US State Department said.

Trump’s tour will also take in regional allies Japan and South Korea.

Washington has alternated between criticising and praising Beijing’s role in the North Korea crisis, on the one hand welcoming its support for new sanctions but also insisting it must do more to rein in its unruly neighbour.

For its part, China has called on both Trump and North Korean strongman Kim Jong-Un to tone down their increasingly bellicose rhetoric and instead try to begin peace talks.

“We are opposed to any war on the Korean peninsula, and the international community will never allow a war (which would) plunge people into an abyss of misery,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular press briefing.

“Sanctions and the promoting of talks are both the requirements of the UN Security Council. We should not overemphasise one aspect while ignoring the other,” Lu said.