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How many people know about the Battle of Lepanto?

In the 1970s, when Western education was still decent, I took a year of World History in high school. If we covered it, it must have been a footnote.

I read about it in depth only six years ago, when someone from the West Indies had a WordPress blog, since deleted. The writer was Catholic and explained the religious, historical and cultural significance of October 7, 1571, the date of the victory over the Ottoman Empire.

The victory was important to Mediterranean Europe. Inland, the Battle of Vienna took place just over a century later, on September 12, 1683, led by the indomitable King Jan (John) III Sobieski of Poland. Lepanto was to the Mediterranean what Vienna was to the rest of Europe.

On to the Battle of Lepanto and October 7, which Catholics venerate as the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. In 2017, Polish Catholics assembled nationwide to pray the Rosary on that day. The Daily Mail has more (emphases mine):

Hundreds of thousands of Polish Catholics are expected to descend Saturday on the country’s borders to recite the rosary “to save Poland and the world” from the dangers facing them, organisers say, but others claim the event is aimed at protecting Europe from what they term a Muslim onslaught.

The episcopate insists that the “Rosary to the Borders” is a purely religious initiative, but some Catholics view it as a weapon against “Islamisation.”

The date was not chosen at random. October 7 is when Catholics celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, marking the 1571 victory of Christianity over the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Lepanto.

A victory attributed to the recital of the rosary “that saved Europe from Islamisation”, the Solo Dios Basta foundation said on the website of the event it is organising.

Many Poles see Islam as a threat. The conservative government, which enjoys the backing of a sizeable portion of the population, refuses to welcome migrants to Poland, which has very few Muslims of its own.

Twenty-two border dioceses will take part in the event, whose faithful will congregate in some 200 churches for a lecture and mass before travelling to the border to say the rosary.

The goal is to have as many prayer points as possible along the 3,511 kilometres (about 2,200 miles) that make up Poland’s borders with Belarus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine and the Baltic Sea.

Fishing boats will join in at sea, while kayaks and sailboats will form a chain along rivers and lakes. Prayers will also be said at the chapels of a few international airports …

The goal is to pray for world peace, according to Father Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, spokesman for the Polish Bishops’ Conference.

“The initiative obviously received the approval of Poland’s bishops,” he told AFP, emphasising that it would be wrong to view the event as a prayer against the arrival of Muslim refugees.

“It is not a matter of closing ourselves off to others. On the contrary, the point of bringing the rosary to the borders is to break down walls and open ourselves up to Russians, Belarussians, Slovaks, Ukrainians and Germans,” he said

In 2018, on October 7, Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, appeared on a talk show saying that the influx of immigrants arriving by boat are not true refugees. He estimates that only 10 per cent are. He recommends taking in only women and young children. He objects to turning Italy’s public housing over to immigrants arriving by boat and says that local and regional governments should continue to reserve these flats and houses for Italians. Currently, Angela Merkel is trying to transfer immigrants who had arrived in Germany via Italy back to Italy:

RMC (French talk radio) had a lengthy segment on immigration from Africa on the morning of Monday, October 8. Opinion was strongly divided as to whether and how many more immigrants France — especially Paris — should accommodate. It was a lively discussion with no conclusion. One point that did stand out was that French people were being pushed down the queue for social housing for recently-arrived immigrants. So, the French housing situation is like Italy’s, which is like Germany’s and Sweden’s.

Besides the religious and 21st century significance of the Battle of Lepanto, there is a historic one. It took place at a time when the invasion of hordes of groups of people — not just those from the Ottoman Empire — were invading not only Europe but also Asia.

I had always wondered how these groups had been stopped. A considered essay, ‘The Significance of Lepanto’, explains what happened from that point through to the 18th century.

First, we need to consider the main group of players in Europe’s Holy League. These nation-states also controlled various parts of the Mediterranean, including islands such as Corsica, Cyprus and Crete. Trade and strategic ports were important to the Spanish, the Venetians and to the Vatican, which also controlled territory in this part of the world:

The Battle of Lepanto has a major place in the symbolism of the Western-Islamic relationship, and Niccolò Capponi’s recently published Victory of the West: The Story of the Battle of Lepanto treats the battle as a major encounter between the Islamic Ottoman empire and the forces of Western Christendom.

Lepanto was the last great battle that could be described as a simple clash between Christendom and Islam. Fought on October 7, 1571, it saw the fleet of the Ottoman empire pitted against an alliance of Spain, Venice and various other minor players to form a Holy League under the leadership of Don Juan of Austria, the illegitimate half-brother of Philip II of Spain.

The battle was the response of the Christian powers to the invasion of the Venetian possession of Cyprus. At stake was control of the Mediterranean. If the Ottomans had won then there was a real possibility that an invasion of Italy could have followed so that the Ottoman sultan, already claiming to be emperor of the Romans, would have been in possession of both New and Old Rome. The Pope could have become as much a tool of the Ottoman sultan as his Orthodox counterpart the Patriarch of Constantinople already was.

Yet, as Capponi points out, the Holy League was hardly a model of Christian solidarity. The Spanish and the Venetians had different strategic objectives—the Spanish were concerned primarily with Italy, North Africa and the Western Mediterranean, while Venice was anxious to recover Cyprus and protect its interests in the eastern Mediterranean. The Spanish were not keen for a battle that might lose them precious resources, particularly as Philip II, with interests as well in northern Europe, was usually on the verge of bankruptcy. The Spanish were also concerned that the Venetians were in the process of cutting a deal with the Ottomans. Just a few days before the battle there was a conflict between the Spanish and Venetians that almost tore the fleet apart. Nevertheless the alliance held and the League fleet scored a stunning success.

Lepanto reshaped the religious bent of the Mediterranean:

The cultural shape of the lands around the Mediterranean was confirmed with a largely Islamic East and South staring across the waters at a Christian North and West.

The Ottoman Empire gradually lost territory and influence from that point until it collapsed with the Great War (1914-1918). That said, we are still dealing with the aftermath a century later:

The Ottoman empire, like the ancient Roman empire and the Byzantine empire before it, was left with the task of defending its ever diminishing borders over the next three centuries. When it did finally “fall” after the First World War the ramifications were enormous, and we are still attempting to cope with them from Bosnia to Iraq.

The Europeans defeated the Ottomans because of advanced naval battle tactics and weaponry. They also had more advanced trade and inventions, such as the printing press, which the Ottomans were slow to adopt:

The League won because it used innovative tactics. The usual form that galley warfare took was to ram the enemy ships and then take them by storm. The Venetian ships attempted a new and different tactic. Using a larger and modified form of galley known as galleasses, they filled these ships with cannons and attempted to blow as many of the Ottoman galleys as possible out of the water. League ships carried many more cannon and its troops made much greater use of firearms. Many of the Ottoman troops preferred to use bows, although these were not necessarily inferior to the clumsy arquebus of that time …

In the longer term, however, the future belonged to the new commercial instruments of the West rather than to the bureaucratic machinery of the Ottomans. In her study of seventeenth-century Crete, A Shared World, Molly Green demonstrates that the commercial techniques and practices used by the Venetians were much more sophisticated and developed than those of the Ottoman regime that replaced them in mid-century. It was also the case that the Ottomans were slow to take to make use of printing, with the “printing revolution” that swept the West in the sixteenth century not really taking off in the Islamic world until the nineteenth century.

Europe and Asia had been beset by invaders for centuries, especially during the perilous Dark Ages.

In Europe, during the latter days of the Roman Empire:

Rome, and the Roman empire, had to face an almost continuous set of threats, beginning with the Celts, then moving through to the Germans, Huns, Avars, Arabs and Turks. The Ottoman Turks simply delivered the coup de grâce to what had become little more than a living corpse.

In Asia:

China built its “great wall” to protect itself from nomadic predators, while the damage inflicted by the Mongols on the settled Islamic world, including the sack of Baghdad, was staggering.

These invasions happened because invading tribes of people envied the civilisation of settled societies:

A settled civilisation, by creating a measure of comfort and a settled way of life, makes itself a target for those living outside their boundaries who are drawn by what it has to offer.

Large-scale invasions ended in the 18th century, probably thanks to the Chinese:

the Qing Chinese empire in the eighteenth century successfully conquered and subdued the last of the great nomadic empires of Eurasia. For the first time in millennia no barbarian horsemen, no Huns, no Avars, no Mongols, surged across the great plains of Eurasia to sack and pillage Europe, China and the great civilisations of the Islamic world and India.

When a new barbarian empire emerged powerful enough to threaten the Ottomans, and by this I mean the Russian empire, it was successfully checked by the jealousy of the other European powers. It was also into this world … of empires that were not revitalised by new sets of barbarians, in the Middle East, in India and in China, that the European empires were able to make such inroads from the eighteenth century onwards.

Lepanto, as with so many other advances of that era, helped to usher in modernity to Europe with an emphasis on trade rather than war:

Lepanto can be seen as symbolic of that transition, described by the nineteenth-century French liberal philosopher Benjamin Constant, from the age of war to the age of commerce. Or as others might say, it can be considered as the birth of modernity. Even the overwhelming use of firepower can be found in the pages of Constant as a feature of the utilitarian approach to warfare favoured by commercial nations. The irony was that the somewhat ramshackle empires of sixteenth-century Europe, with their disorganised finances and administrative apparatuses much inferior to those of the Ottomans, would within 300 years come to dominate the world not because of their superior asabiya or virtue but because of their capacity to create modern efficient institutions far superior to the slave bureaucracy of the Ottomans, and because of their ability to deliver superior firepower.

This new European and commercial form of empire supplanted an older, more traditional imperial form. What this meant was that the old rules of empire, of an imperial expansion dictated by the need to conquer to attain booty and slaves and a decline governed by the need to protect its settled possessions from new predators, would give way to a new set of rules. These are the rules of the export and import of capital, as described by Niall Ferguson in his recent studies of the English and American empires.

Looking at present day developments in Europe, there does seem to be an envy of others to have what we Europeans have without contributing to our respective nations. When well-intended private and state generosity is met with Marxist-driven violence and disregard for the host citizenry, it is no wonder that many think of Lepanto.

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My past two posts have been about the US, North Korea and China.

The first post discussed developments that immediately followed the US-North Korea Singapore Summit held on Monday, June 12, 2018.

Yesterday’s concerned Mike Pompeo’s meetings in North Korea and Japan early in July as well as the trade war between the US and China.

Today’s entry looks at events from the past month.

On July 19, news emerged that China was nearly doubling the amounts of crude oil they were sending to North Korea, possibly jeopardising UN sanctions. From OilPrice.com via South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper (emphases mine):

The surge in Chinese shipments to North Korea is raising additional concerns that China could undermine the international sanctions against Kim’s regime.

Pipeline volumes of between 30,000 tons to 40,000 tons are enough in the summer to keep the pipeline from China to North Korea unclogged, while this volume is around 80,000 tons in the winter, Chosun Ilbo’s source said. Although it’s summer, China has recently increased the oil flow to the winter levels, the source told the South Korean outlet …

If China sends 80,000 tons of oil to North Korea every month, this volume already brings the amount to 960,000 tons a year—above the 525,000 tons limit for a 12-month period in the sanctions, Chosun Ilbo argues.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley met with the UN Security Council the next day. The crude oil shipments were one of Pompeo’s first topics. He reminded the UN of the collective responsibility member nations have in enforcing sanctions. From the State Department transcript:

Right now, North Korea is illegally smuggling petroleum products into the country at a level that far exceeds the quotas established by the United Nations. These illegal ship-to-ship transfers are the most prominent means by which this is happening.

These transfers happened at least 89 times in the first five months of this year and they continue to occur. The United States reminds every UN member-state of its responsibility to stop illegal ship-to-ship transfers, and we urge them to step up their enforcement efforts as well.

We must also crack down on other forms of sanctions evasion, including the smuggling of coal by sea, smuggling by overland borders, and the presence of North Korean guest workers in certain countries. North Korean cyber thefts and other criminal activities are also generating significant revenues for the regime, and they must be stopped.

President Trump remains upbeat about the prospects of denuclearization of North Korea. So do I, as progress is happening. It is the Trump administration’s hope that one day the DPRK could be in our midst here at the United Nations – not as a pariah, but as a friend. Imagine UN Security Council meetings in which the DPRK nuclear and missile programs were not the agenda time and time again. We’ll be able to focus our energy on so many urgent problems that face our world.

I believe this reality is possible, and so does President Trump. But it will take full enforcement of sanctions for us to get there. It will also take Chairman Kim following through on his personal commitments that he made to President Trump in Singapore. The path ahead is not easy; it will take time. But our hopes for a safer world for all of us and a brighter future for North Korea remains our objective, and that hope endures.

That day, President Trump signed into law House Resolution (HR) 2061, the North Korean Human Rights Reauthorisation Act of 2017:

At the end of the month, things began happening in North Korea, not all of which made sense.

On July 23, North Korea began dismantling key facilities at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station:

However, on July 25, Mike Pompeo said the country was still producing fuel for nuclear bombs:

Asked at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing whether North Korea was still making bomb fuel, Pompeo responded to Democratic Senator Ed Markey by saying: “Yes, that’s correct … Yes, they continue to produce fissile material.”

Pompeo declined to respond when asked whether North Korea was continuing to pursue submarine-launched ballistic missiles or whether its nuclear program was advancing generally.

He said he would be happy to answer the latter question if necessary in a classified setting, but suggested public statements on the issue would not help “a complex negotiation with a difficult adversary.”

The following day, a new North Korean military chief of staff was appointed:

On July 27, as North Korea pledged, remains of US soldiers from the Korean War landed in Hawaii. US Air Force veteran flying ace Chuck Yeager tweeted a tribute:

On August 1, Vice President Mike Pence presided over a ceremony and reception of the fallen soldiers’ remains in Hawaii, their return being part of the Singapore Summit agreement.

Meanwhile, interesting discussions took place between South Korea and China regarding the Korean War Armistice. Noon in Korea has an excellent Twitter thread from July 31, excerpted below:

Excellent news! The Korean War could finally come to an end!

Meanwhile, back in China — North Korea’s controller — an article on American Thinker excerpted another from the Financial Times, which says the Chinese think that President Trump is ‘a genius’. On July 29, American Thinker‘s Monica Showalter wrote:

Has anyone ever called the Chinese ‘stupid’? Not those guys.

So now they’re reading President Trump, and unlike the childish Eurotrash of western Europe, they see a shrewd, wily, chess-playing, Sun Tzu-grade genius, who could easily checkmate them, and they’ve got a lot of reasons for thinking so.

That’s the report from a European policy-domo, who actually went to Beijing and asked the local leaders what they were seeing.

Instapundit also has excerpts from the FT article, written by the European Council of Foreign Relations President Mark Leonard:

I have just spent a week in Beijing talking to officials and intellectuals, many of whom are awed by his skill as a strategist and tactician. . . .

Few Chinese think that Mr Trump’s primary concern is to rebalance the bilateral trade deficit. If it were, they say, he would have aligned with the EU, Japan and Canada against China rather than scooping up America’s allies in his tariff dragnet. They think the US president’s goal is nothing less than remaking the global order

In Chinese eyes, Mr Trump’s response is a form of “creative destruction”. He is systematically destroying the existing institutions — from the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement to Nato and the Iran nuclear deal — as a first step towards renegotiating the world order on terms more favourable to Washington.

Once the order is destroyed, the Chinese elite believes, Mr Trump will move to stage two: renegotiating America’s relationship with other powers. Because the US is still the most powerful country in the world, it will be able to negotiate with other countries from a position of strength if it deals with them one at a time rather than through multilateral institutions that empower the weak at the expense of the strong.

My interlocutors say that Mr Trump is the US first president for more than 40 years to bash China on three fronts simultaneously: trade, military and ideology. They describe him as a master tactician, focusing on one issue at a time, and extracting as many concessions as he can. They speak of the skilful way Mr Trump has treated President Xi Jinping. “Look at how he handled North Korea,” one says. “He got Xi Jinping to agree to UN sanctions [half a dozen] times, creating an economic stranglehold on the country. China almost turned North Korea into a sworn enemy of the country.” But they also see him as a strategist, willing to declare a truce in each area when there are no more concessions to be had, and then start again with a new front.

Why don’t Westerners view Trump the same way the Chinese do?

Nevertheless, China isn’t going to go down without a fight.

On August 4, Trump posted a series of tweets about the success his tariffs on Chinese goods. This was the first:

The Conservative Treehouse correctly predicted what lay ahead:

Do not be surprised if North Korea launches another provocative missile test soon. Watch China, not N.Korea. It’s Chairman Xi’s people in the DPRK who are taking action. Kim Jong-Un is an expendable proxy regime. The war is the U.S. -vs- China trade and economic confrontation. North Korea is the Potemkin backdrop for the Beijing puppeteer.

The following day, Reuters reported:

China’s state media on Monday lashed out at the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump in an usually direct attack, accusing him of “starring in his own carefully orchestrated street fighter-style deceitful drama”.

Trump’s wish for others to play along with his drama is “wishful thinking,” the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper said in an editorial.

The editorial said the United States had escalated trade friction with China, and turned international trade into “zero-sum game”.

“Governing a country is not like doing business,” the editorial said, arguing that Trump’s actions imperiled the national credibility of the United States.

The Conservative Treehouse explained what was going on:

Each time China takes aggressive action (red dragon) China projects a panda face through silence and non-response to opinion of that action;…. and the action continues. The red dragon has a tendency to say one necessary thing publicly, while manipulating another necessary thing privately.  The Art of War.

President Trump is the first U.S. President to understand how the red dragon hides behind the panda mask

It is specifically because Trump understands Panda is a mask that President Trump messages warmth toward the Chinese people, and pours vociferous praise upon Xi Jinping, while simultaneously confronting the geopolitical doctrine of the Xi regime.

In essence Trump is mirroring the behavior of China while confronting their economic duplicity.

On August 6, ZeroHedge confirmed Trump’s strategy in an article about the continuing decline of China’s currency, the renminbi: ‘China Is Now Left With Just Three Options, And They Are All Equally Bad’ (emphases in the original):

  1. intervene in currency markets to offset market pressures risking a new wave of reserve depletion;
  2. raise interest rates to defend the currency causing monetary tightening and risking economic weakness; or
  3. let the currency depreciate beyond the above critical levels along with market pressures risking capital outflows and a more abrupt move

It goes without saying that all three choices have severely adverse consequences for the market and the global economy, and yet Donald Trump would be delighted with any of the three. After all, recall what One River CIO Eric Peters … laid out what may be the best long-term foreign policy recommendation for Trump, or any other administration: crash China…

Engineering a decade of rolling Chinese financial crises would be the most effective foreign policy the US could run.” Forget about the South China Sea, don’t bother with more aircraft carriers, just let Beijing try to cope with their financial system.

“And we’re 80% of the way there – we instigated a trade war, implemented a massive fiscal stimulus, which created the room to raise interest rates. The combined policy mix makes capital want to leave at the same time it makes the dollar more attractive and effectively shuts down new investment inflows to China.”

On August 7, ZeroHedge discussed the aforementioned dismantling of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station and disparaged the lack of Big Media coverage on it, especially as the dismantling goes beyond what the US and North Korea negotiated:

activity at the launch pad appears to go beyond that commitment.

ZeroHedge said:

As we previously noted, these stories of supposed North Korean betrayal by NBC, CNN, and the Wall Street Journal are egregious cases of distorting news by pushing a predetermined policy line. But those news outlets, far from being outliers, are merely reflecting the norms of the entire corporate news system

As we concluded previously, a media complex so determined to discredit negotiations with North Korea and so unfettered by political-diplomatic reality seriously threatens the ability of the United States to deliver on any agreement with Pyongyang. That means alternative media must make more aggressive efforts to challenge the corporate press’s coverage... and today’s news seems positive (but we will see what spin it gets).

Last weekend, North Korea and the United States held working meetings in Panmunjom. Mike Pompeo was not there, although it is now thought he could be making another trip to North Korea.

On Monday, August 13, representatives from North and South Korea met in the city. It is now thought that a summit between the two countries could be held in September.

On August 15, Yonhap News Agency reported that South Korea’s:

President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday used his Liberation Day address to pitch his Korea peace drive, calling for railway, energy and economic cooperation with the North as a cornerstone for Northeast Asian peace and prosperity.

Speaking at a ceremony marking Korea’s independence from the 1910-45 Japanese colonial rule 73 years ago on the day, he renewed his commitment to end the division of the Koreas, saying “true liberation” can only be achieved when the two countries establish a lasting peace and economic community.

On August 16, CNBC reported that a fresh round of trade talks between the US and China could take place later in August. This was good news for the Dow Jones.

Coming next week:

These families have been separated for over 60 years.

All of these news stories lead to a conclusion best voiced by entrepreneur and media host, Jon Taffer:

I couldn’t agree more, Jon! This is an exciting, positive time in world history! What’s not to like?

Yesterday’s post discussed developments that immediately followed the US-North Korea Singapore Summit held on Monday, June 12, 2018.

Much went on with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to South-east Asia and the US-Chinese trade war early in July.

Keep in mind this explanatory graphic about the relationship between North Korea and China from The Conservative Treehouse:

https://theconservativetreehouse.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/us-vs-china-7-e1502656780990.jpg?w=465&h=650

On July 7, the US state department’s impression of the two nations’ talks was different to that of North Korea, according to an unnamed North Korean official who called them ‘regrettable’. Townhall reported:

Just hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that his talks during the past two days with the North Korean government were “productive” and beneficial regarding “central issues,” the communist nation’s Foreign Ministry categorically disagreed, calling the meetings in Pyongyang “regrettable.”

The Associated Press reports that an “unnamed North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman” claims that the United States “betrayed the spirit of last month’s summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by making unilateral demands” regarding denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. 

The North Koreans issued a lengthy official statement along those lines, which ended with this:

If the objective situation does not stand in favor of the denuclearization against our wills, this would rather cast a heavy cloud over the atmosphere of developing bilateral relations which had shown its good movement in its beginning.

Should the headwind begin to blow, it would cause a great disappointment not only to the international society aspiring after global peace and security but also to both the DPRK and the U.S. If so, this will finally make each side seek for another choice and there is no guarantee that this will not result into yet another tragedy.

We still cherish our good faith in President Trump.

The U.S. should make a serious consideration of whether the toleration of the headwind against the wills of the two top leaders would meet the aspirations and expectations of the world people as well as the interests of its country.

The Conservative Treehouse pointed out (emphases mine):

Keep in mind that Secretary Pompeo was not permitted to meet with Kim Jong-un.  If our ongoing thesis is accurate it is likely Red Dragon (Chairman Xi) is positioning the DPRK for maximum trade and economic leverage.  It would be against Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping’s interests for Pompeo and Kim Jong-un to have a public display of agreement.

Until there is an empirical or factual reason to counter what seems like an obvious geopolitical strategy, we should consider all events through the prism that the primary leadership within the DPRK, the officials controlling Kim, are under the control of China.

The trade confrontation is China’s biggest geopolitical risk.  The primary weapon China holds toward demanding terms from the U.S. would be their ability to change the dynamic in North Korea at any given moment.  From this frame-of-reference things begin to make more sense.

On the surface it appears the U.S. is negotiating terms for a denuclearized North Korea; however, under the surface the bigger issue is the ongoing economic confrontation between the U.S. and China.   The DPRK is Red Dragon leverage.

That day, Mike Pompeo had left North Korea for Japan:

He also met with foreign ministers Kong and Kang, from China and South Korea, respectively:

The US-China trade war also attracted attention.

US tariffs on Chinese goods went into effect on July 6. To mask what was really going on in their economy, the Chinese maintained that Americans did not support this policy:

In fact, the truth is that most Americans want tariffs on foreign goods:

The Rasmussen survey of March 12 says:

89% of American Adults believe it is at least somewhat important for the United States to have a major manufacturing and industrial base, including 63% who believe it is Very Important. Only eight percent (8%) say it is not very or Not At All Important to keep a manufacturing base at home. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

On July 6, White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Director Peter Navarro appeared on Fox Business to explain the American view of trade with regard to China. As The Conservative Treehouse explained:

Almost all of the financial media and economic punditry are intentionally obfuscating the underlying nature of China’s economic model.

China is a communist central government controlled economic system. Free-market principles do not apply when dealing with China; therefore trade strategies based on ‘free markets’ cannot succeed against the centralized planning of a communist regime.

Charlie Kirk, founder and president of Turning Point USA, active on university campuses, put it bluntly:

On July 8, Mike Pompeo met with Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan and Kang Kyung-wha, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea in Tokyo. The full State Department transcript of their press conference is here. Interestingly, some of the media correspondents there asked about the ‘abductions’ by the North Koreans of the Japanese (emphases in the original, video here):

FOREIGN MINISTER KONO: (Via interpreter) …

Now on the question of abduction, from Secretary Pompeo this time around the issue was raised, and I’d like to thank him for raising the issue at the meeting. Regarding the reaction from North Korea, I will refrain from making any comment.

As far as Japan is concerned, the U.S. and North Korean negotiations should advance furthermore, and we’d like to work in tandem with the international community so that Security Council resolution-based sanction can be solidly implemented regarding North Korea.

FOREIGN MINISTER KANG: … On the abduction issue, yes, my president has also raised this in two rounds of discussions with Chairman Kim, and we urge them to engage in bilateral discussions with Japan on this issue. After all, it’s a bilateral issue. We also have a couple of our nationals detained in North Korea, so it’s an issue that concerns us as well. 

SECRETARY POMPEO: … I did raise the issue of the abduction of Japanese. I’ve done it at each conversation I’ve had with my North Korean counterparts, whether it was on my first two trips with Chairman Kim or on this trip with Kim Yong-chul. I’ve raised it repeatedly. I won’t go into any of the details about particular parts of that element of our discussion. Know that it is important to the United States; it’s part of our discussions each and every time we interact with our North Korean counterparts. 

Pompeo and US officials also met privately with Kono and his delegation:

On July 9, the South China Morning Post reported that China responded to the imposition of tariffs by the United States with tariffs on American goods going into the country. The main thrust of the article, however, was that the Chinese government thought it would be a good idea to go easy on Trump (emphases mine):

After answering Washington’s 25 per cent levy on US$34 billion of Chinese goods with equivalent tariffs on US products, Beijing has directed state media to watch how they report on US President Donald Trump, mainland media sources said.

“It’s been said that we should not use aggressive language for Trump,” said one of two sources who declined to be named because internal directions often are regarded as confidential information.

Even though Chinese officials and state media have attacked the trade policies of the Trump administration, so far they have not laid blame on the US president or his officials – a move seen as an attempt to avoid antagonising Trump and further complicating negotiations.

While the Beijing directive may not have been issued across the board – two other state media sources said they were not instructed how to write about Trump with regards to trade – it mirrored one of the guidelines on an official propaganda instruction widely circulated on social media.

The edict called on media outlets not to make vulgar attacks on Trump to avoid “making this a war of insults”.

Breitbart had more. One way the Chinese are able to criticise Trump is by quoting Westerners:

Reuters’ sources also said they were “instructed not to mention the impact of the trade war on Chinese companies” because they don’t want to give the impression pressure against China might be working

China might need to restrict the market access of American companies. But to purge American companies that are already operating in China might be a very bad idea. Those companies generate jobs and revenue for China. Most Apple products are made in China. To do something to harm American firms that are already operating in China would be very stupid,” ventured trade expert Wang Jiangyu of the National University of Singapore.

The Communist Party People’s Daily provided an interesting example of the tightrope walked by Chinese media on Wednesday, publishing an article that attacked Trump for accusing China of sabotaging talks with North Korea but using a few Westerners plucked from Twitter at random to do it, rather than editorializing against Trump directly or quoting Chinese social media users.

That day, the tension surrounding Pompeo’s meetings with North Korea was still in play. Trump tweeted:

CNBC reported that, after leaving south-east Asia, Pompeo made an unscheduled trip to Kabul, Afghanistan, where he told the media:

We still have a long ways to go. But that commitment that the North Koreans made, frankly that Chairman Kim personally made to President Trump, remains as when reinforced,” he said.

Pompeo also stressed that North Korea’s remarks were “mixed,” and represented an expression of Kim’s continuing “desire to complete the denuclearization to which he is so committed.”

Meanwhile, the North Koreans were still committed to strengthening ties with their fellow travellers:

On July 12, Trump received a gracious letter from Kim Jong Un …

… which Big Media ignored:

On July 15, the US and North Korea held meetings to discuss the return of American soldiers’ remains, the first since 2009:

Korean media reported:

The North Koreans agreed to transfer the remains already in their possession to the United States on:

July 27, which is the 65th anniv of the Armistice Agreement

This was another result:

The Premium Times said that the head of the North Korean government occasionally grants amnesty. The last time was in 2015. This year’s is part of marking North Korea’s 70th anniversary:

The Communist Leadership in Pyongyang would grant amnesty to those convicted of crimes against the state in light of North Korea’s 70th anniversary, the state-run KCNA reported on Monday …

Similar to other instances in which amnesty has been granted, it remained unclear exactly which groups the announcement applied to and how many prisoners would be affected.

The following day, the Trump – Putin Helsinki Summit of July 16 included discussions about North Korea and China.

Two days later:

Trump tweeted:

He enjoys solving problems:

His 2020 campaign manager made an excellent point:

Tomorrow’s post will cover the most recent developments between the United States, North Korea and China.

Two months ago, after writing about the Singapore Summit of Monday, June 12, 2018, I said I would analyse it the following week, largely because the media will not focus on this historic event:

Other meetings have taken place since then, and it seemed apposite to wait a while to see how things were progressing between the United States and North Korea as well as China.

Most recently, on August 1, Vice President Mike Pence presided over a ceremony and reception of fallen soldiers’ remains in Hawaii, part of the Summit agreement.

Going back to the Summit, it was reported that President Trump showed a special video about the United States to President Kim Jong Un and his negotiators:

The following day, North Korea’s state-run news bureau reported that Kim accepted Trump’s invitation to visit Washington for denuclearisation talks. This was hailed as a ‘radical switchover’ in relations between the two nations.

On June 13, Trump tweeted:

It wasn’t just Fake News. The cancer had spread earlier in the month to other television programmes, such as this one:

In an interview that day, Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s short-lived White House communications director from 2017, focussed on trade:

Despite the positive developments …

… on June 21, Trump renewed the ‘national emergency’ declaration regarding North Korea for another year. BT.com reported:

In an executive order on Friday, the president extended for one year the so-called “national emergency” with respect to the nuclear-armed nation, authorising economic restrictions against it …

It states that “the existence and risk of proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material” and the actions and policies of the North Korean government “continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States”.

The national emergency has been in place since 2008 …

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said on Friday evening that it has “indefinitely suspended” a major military exercise with South Korea, known as Freedom Guard and scheduled for August, as well as two Korean Marine exchange training exercises.

Officials had announced on Monday that planning for Freedom Guard had been suspended in line with Mr Trump’s decision to halt what he called US “war games” in South Korea.

A Pentagon spokeswoman, Dana W White, said further decisions about military exercises in South Korea “in support of diplomatic negotiations” led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will depend on North Korea “continuing to have productive negotiations in good faith”.

Air Force veteran Lisa Mei Crowley noted that change was in the air:

Fox News and The Daily Caller also reported on this welcome development, which the US secretary of state acknowledged:

Not surprisingly, ‘tensions’ were rising in China — North Korea’s controller — and defence secretary James Mattis visited the country, with subsequent stops in Japan and South Korea:

Meanwhile, the two Koreas had tensions of their own over human rights legislation.

The White House issued a strong statement about China and tariffs, which reads in part:

To stop China’s predatory attacks on America’s innovation base, President Trump is instituting a program of tariffs and is considering investment restrictions and strengthened export controls. These tariffs will help pressure the Chinese to stop engaging in unfair practices and fully open up its markets to U.S. products, including U.S. technologies. The correct response from China would be to stop stealing from Americans and give American products a level playing field to compete in China, not to retaliate and reinforce its own position.

Bloomberg asked how prepared China’s Xi was for a trade war. Hmm:

Xi Jinping vowed to match Donald Trump blow for blow in any trade war. Now as one gets closer, some in Beijing are starting to openly wonder whether China is ready for the fight — an unusually direct challenge to the leadership of the world’s second-largest economy.

In recent weeks, prominent academics have begun to question if China’s slowing, trade-dependent economy can withstand a sustained attack from Trump, which has already started to weigh on stock prices. The sentiments are being expressed in carefully worded essays circulated on China’s heavily censored internet and — according to interviews in recent days with ministry officials and foreign diplomats who asked not to be identified — repeated in the halls of government offices, too.

The Conservative Treehouse explained:

China has focused so intensely on durable-goods manufacturing, their consumable goods market (food) is dependent; they cannot feed themselves.  The U.S. can survive without exporting food, China cannot survive without importing food.  The U.S. economy can survive without importing durable goods; the Chinese economy cannot survive without exporting durable goods.  This is the unavoidable trade reality.  As a consequence President Trump has all the factual leverage.

June 28 was the 50th anniversary of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Mike Pompeo gave a speech about North Korea and Iran in this regard. Concerning the former, he said:

The next day, controversy arose as to whether North Korea was being honest and Obama’s national security advisor tried to make Trump into a chump:

On July 3, Trump refuted Rice and others:

Pompeo had returned to South-east Asia:

According to one South Korean press outlet, Pompeo had with him as a gift for Kim a CD of Elton John’s Rocket Man, a song he said he’d never heard. The State Department said that was false:

The State Department kept Americans updated:

On July 6, the other big news item was the US-China trade war. CNBC’s Jim Cramer said the American people supported Trump’s perspective:

“We simply, as a people, seem to be united that the president’s position is wrong. I hear more of that on TV than I hear reality. I think that there are a lot of people [who say], ‘Thank you for standing up for us,’” Cramer said on CNBC …

“There are a lot of companies that are doing quite well in the country. And I think if you’re going to take on the Chinese you do it from strength. And we have much more strength than they do,” he said. “Look at 211,000 jobs on average the last three months, this economy is very strong.”

Wall Street trader and Sarge986 President Stephen Guilfoyle agreed. He told Fox News that day:

President Trump’s trade policies have China “by the short hairs” and “right where we want them” in the bid to win any impending trade wars.

“They have retail sales in the hole… they’ve got industrial production in the hole,” Guilfoyle said. “The Shanghai Composite [stock index] is down 17 percent year-to-date. We’ve got these guys where we want them.

News about Pompeo’s trip and the trade war circulated, so they will comprise tomorrow’s post.

That said, most of the established media wanted to focus on the Mueller probe:

No wonder Trump got shirty about that and the short shrift he received for the Singapore Summit:

At least Asian nations appreciate his sterling efforts:

True. One cannot say better than that.

Yesterday’s post covered the Inter-Korean Summit, which took place on April 27, 2018 and resulted in the Panmunjom Declaration between the two nations (great photos here and here).

Today’s looks at the Singapore Summit between the US and North Korea, which took place on Monday, June 12, 2018 at the Capella Hotel, Sentosa Island.

President Trump understands the complexity of negotiations with North Korea, because China controls that country. Graphic below courtesy of The Conservative Treehouse (CTH):

Consider the magnitude of the events of this year, so far. This was Dilbert’s Scott Adams’s take early in April:

After the Inter-Korean Summit, Trump was careful to remember China’s Xi:

After six decades, the Korean War is finally ending. Trump was a little boy when the last shot was fired. Even CNN acknowledged that he’s been instrumental in making it happen, although he humbly tweeted (emphases mine):

KOREAN WAR TO END! The United States, and all of its GREAT people, should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea!

This was the scene in South Korea after the two Korean leaders met:

Trump spoke with South Korea’s Moon and Japan’s Abe with a view to US talks with North Korea.

Although military-industrial sector stocks dipped, on Monday, April 30, President Moon said that Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize. From Reuters:

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said U.S. President Donald Trump deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the standoff with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, a South Korean official said on Monday.

“President Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize. What we need is only peace,” Moon told a meeting of senior secretaries, according to a presidential Blue House official who briefed media.

Conservative commentator Charles Payne took a Twitter poll: 83% agreed with Moon.

As a US trade delegation headed to China, Trump toyed with the idea of holding the US-North Korea summit at Peace House, where the Inter-Korean Summit took place.

On May 3, the South Koreans were still thinking about their president’s words on Trump’s deserving the Nobel Peace Prize:

If only Trump were as highly regarded in his own country …

The following day, North Korea switched to South Korea’s time zone in a significant step towards reunification:

Meanwhile, John Bolton met with South Korea’s national security office director Chung Eui-Yong about the Inter-Korean Summit as well as plans for President Moon’s trip to the White House on May 22.

On May 9, Trump held a cabinet meeting:

On May 10, North Korea released three American hostages. They returned to the United States, where President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump were on hand to greet them and Mike Pompeo, who had secured their release.

The next day Pompeo pledged American help to North Korea, under certain conditions:

Pompeo also met with South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha at the White House that day. She was the one who told CNN’s Christine Amanpour that President Trump deserved much credit for the Inter-Korean Summit.

On May 12, news circulated that North Korea would dismantle its nuclear site on May 23, with rumours that only journalists from selected countries could cover the event. Trump tweeted:

On May 15, a North Korean statement put the Singapore Summit into doubt:

This was Trump’s response:

On May 17, CTH offered this analysis:

President Trump met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House today for a bilateral meeting on EU security and trade issues. During the Oval Office press availability both made remarks but president Trump took the opportunity to have an impromptu presser on other current issues …

It was not coincidental the stompy-feet assertions of Kim Jong-un and the DPRK were timed at the exact moment Chinese Vice-Premier Liu arrived in the U.S. for important trade talks. Once again Chairman Xi Jinping is using his proxy province of N-Korea to leverage economic benefits

POTUS Trump knows exactly what Chairman Xi is doing. Xi is leveraging the N-Korea talks for a better trade outcome.

On May 21, a commemorative coin to mark the Singapore Summit appeared:

President Moon arrived at the White House as scheduled, on May 22. CTH offered this analysis:

An important meeting today in the Oval Office between U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Obviously the primary discussion was over the issues of North Korea nuclear program, and the possible denuclearization summit between President Trump and North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un …

After a second meeting with Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping, the voices behind Chairman Kim Jong-un changed their tone in media presentations and and became more hostile toward the goal of a denuclearization summit. This example showcase Beijing exerting control over the DPRK to gain strategic trade and economic benefits.

Trump and Moon held a press conference. Trump answered a question on trade with China:

… President Xi and I have a great relationship, as President Moon can attest. But there is no deal. We will see what happens. We are discussing deals. We’re discussing various deals. We can do a 301. We can do — where we don’t need China, where we can just say, look, this is what we want, this is what we think is fair. That’s always a possibility if a negotiated deal doesn’t work out.

As I said, we lost $500 billion a year for many years. And then it varied from $100 billion to $500 billion. When you’re losing $500 billion a year, you can’t lose in terms of a negotiation. It’s really easy to win. But I want this to be a great deal for the United States, and I want it to be a very good deal for China, too, if that’s possible. It may not be possible

On May 24, Kim Jong-Un cancelled the Singapore Summit.

Trump responded in writing. The last two paragraphs are absolutely brilliant — and personal. The AP said that national security adviser John Bolton dictated the text of the letter:

CTH had this take:

Ultimately the decision to withdraw is an outcome of changes in posture initiated strategically by China and Chairman Xi Jinping. China hoping to leverage a U.S. trade outcome by playing the strings on DPRK Chairman Kim Jong-un.

The timing of the meetings between China and DPRK, mirrors the changes in posture by the DPRK and reflects a transparency. Communist Beijing is engaging with the Trump administration in traditional dragon-mode their zero-sum outlook. In response, President Trump drops the Panda approach and confronts the manipulation directly.

Likely President Trump will immediately increase sanction enforcement and reposition again for a pending naval blockade.

Earlier that day, North Korea blew up its nuclear test site. No inspectors were present, and the White House said that was the reason for Trump’s letter:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he received no North Korean response to earlier requests about setting up meetings during the summit. From the Daily Mail:

The North Korean government completely ignored the Trump administration’s efforts to nail down details of a planned June 12 nuclear arms summit in Singapore, effectively disappearing in the middle of pre-meeting protocol negotiations.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had met personally in April with Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang, sketching out the contours of the face-to-face that President Donald Trump canceled Thursday morning.

In testimony during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Pompeo said there was no chance of ‘a successful outcome,’ in some part because Kim’s team was AWOL when it counted.

‘Over the past many days we have endeavored to do what Chairman Kim and I had agreed, [which] was to put teams, preparation teams together, to begin to work to prepare for the summit,’ he told senators. ‘And we had received no response to our inquiries from them.’

By May 25, the talks were on again, with a North Korean statement. CTH reported:

Within minutes of President Trump withdrawing from the June 12th summit, Beijing realized all of their trade leverage was just wiped out. Playing deceptive panda isn’t going to work this time …

This is a battle, a massive economic battle, between U.S. President Trump and Chinese Chairman Xi. Period.

Whenever this geopolitical economic trade confrontation is resolved; that’s when Chairman Xi will instruct Chairman Kim to take the knee. Not a moment before.

Until the U.S. -vs- China economic confrontation is solved, Xi will continue to use the DPRK threat as his principle leverage in the negotiations.

CTHTheLastRefuge — had more on Twitter. From May 25:

Kim’s back in Beijing for next set of instructions. LOOK=>: “A high-ranking North Korean official appears to be visiting Beijing, a source with knowledge of the matter said Thursday, as the country has been bolstering ties with China.”…

Finally, at least one media outlet — Fox News — understood:

By May 26:

On May 27, CTH reported:

President Trump has announced via Twitter the U.S. advance team has arrived in North Korea to position for a possible June 12th summit between President Trump and North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un.

Yesterday South Korean Prime Minister Moon Jae-in and North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un held an impromptu summit/meeting in the DPRK to display their unified smiles.

Trump gave a bit more detail:

We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea. Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more. Kim Yong Chol, the Vice Chairman of North Korea, heading now to New York. Solid response to my letter, thank you!

On May 29, Kim Yong Chol flew to Beijing first, then on to New York. Pompeo was his host:

On June 1, Kim Yong Chol went to the White House to meet with President Trump and deliver a large, mysterious envelope:

Kim Yong Chol arrived in North Korea on June 3. Interestingly, North Korea replaced their top three military officials the same day.

On June 5, Trump was looking forward to the Singapore Summit. On June 7, he tweeted that he was looking forward to meeting his ‘good friend’, Japan’s Shinzo Abe, at the G7 to discuss trade and North Korea.

Trump left the G7 early for the Singapore Summit:

Air Force One landed in Crete for refuelling. Meanwhile, Air China provided Kim Jong Un with an Airbus A330 to get him to Singapore. Kim received a cordial welcome when he arrived (motorcade photo here).

China sent best wishes:

Pompeo was already conducting preliminary meetings:

The White House issued a statement saying that discussions were going very well indeed, ‘more quickly than expected’.

North Korea’s state media was also positive:

Here’s the historic handshake between Trump and Kim (a photo here of the room beforehand):

This composite video of the two leaders at the summit marks pivotal, historic moments for both countries and the world:

Trump and Kim met privately. This is what happened on the way:

They also made brief statements:

They took a walk after lunch:

Bilateral meetings also took place:

This is worth noting:

Talks went so well that Trump was able to leave Singapore earlier than expected.

Who would have expected these results only a few months ago?

Kim also pledged to finally return the remains of Americans who died in the Korean War.

Ultimately:

Incidentally, here is a bit more about the large, mysterious letter Kim Yong Chol delivered to the president on June 1. On June 11, just before the Singapore Summit began, the Straits Times reported:

According to South Korean daily Joongang Ilbo, citing a source in Singapore, Mr Kim has invited Mr Trump to North Korea to hold a second summit in July.

The invitation was in a letter written by Mr Kim to Mr Trump and hand delivered by Mr Kim’s right-hand man, General Kim Yong Chol, to the White House on June 1.

While Mr Trump has not revealed what was written in the letter, he seemed happy to get it. He told reporters then it was “a very nice letter” and “a very interesting letter”.

Although Trump flew back to Washington after the Singapore Summit, Pompeo’s work was far from over:

In closing, the impact of the Singapore Summit was not lost on the world.

In India:

In Los Angeles:

Amazingly, in North Korea:

This is a very exciting time for not only North Korea, South Korea, Asia and the United States — but also for the world.

It will be interesting to see how North Korea develops, particularly since the nation is sitting on trillions of dollars of mineral resources.

Post-Summit analysis to follow next week.

The Singapore Summit took place in June 2018.

Before then, the historic Inter-Korean Summit took place on April 27.

How far things progressed over the past six months!

This post covers the events and negotiations that led to the Inter-Korean Summit.

On December 28, 2017, President Trump tweeted his disappointment that China was ‘allowing oil to go into North Korea’.

Who can forget this tweet from the New Year in 2018?

Four days later:

A week later, Trump rightly took the Wall Street Journal to task for misquoting him:

… I said “I’d have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un,” a big difference. Fortunately we now record conversations with reporters…

Then he began consulting with geopolitical veterans, including Henry Kissinger:

On March 5, Reuters reported (emphases mine):

Feeling the pressure of sanctions, North Korea seems “sincere” in its apparent willingness to halt nuclear tests if it held denuclearization talks with the United States, President Donald Trump said on Tuesday as U.S., South Korean and Japanese officials voiced skepticism about any discussions …

Word of possible talks was delivered by a South Korean delegation on its return from a first-ever meeting with North Korean leader Kim in Pyongyang on Monday.

The following day, the AP reported that talks between North and South Korea would be scheduled for April:

Chung Eui-yong, the South Korean official who spoke after participating in talks with Kim in Pyongyang, also said the North Korean dictator had agreed to meet with South Korea’s president at a border village in late April.

North Korea didn’t announce what South Korea on Tuesday described as agreements between the rivals. But the North’s state media earlier reported Kim had “openhearted” talks with South Korean envoys, expressed his willingness to “vigorously advance” North-South relations and made a “satisfactory” agreement on the inter-Korean summit talks.

On March 7, the AP featured a timeline article on progress, including this:

South Korea also said North Korea has agreed to halt tests of nuclear weapons and missiles if it holds talks with the United States on denuclearization.

The Conservative Treehouse (CTH) said that this had been in the works since at least August 2017 — when Charlottesville occurred — and that other countries, particularly China, were involved:

All of this was generally under-reported and took place months before President Trump arrived in Asia last year.  The U.S. media was busy pushing racism and Charlottesville narratives.  More importantly this quiet activity took place while President Trump directed US Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer to begin a section 301 trade investigation (Intellectual Property theft) into China.

President Trump was ramping up the economic pressure on Chinese President Xi Jinping; but more specifically Lighthizer’s action was targeting Beijing’s command and control economy along with the behavior of North Korea.

China -vs- U.S. moves have been taking place in Europe, Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Cuba, Venezuela, India, Libya as well as Mexico, Canada and ASEAN nations.  When dragon puts a footprint in Mexico, eagle puts a footprint in Vietnam.   When eagle puts a print in India, dragon puts a print in Pakistan…. this has been going on for well over a year, well beyond the media horizon, and almost no-one’s paying attention.

On March 9, BT.com reported that Trump and Kim were to meet in May:

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump plan to meet in May for nuclear disarmament talks …

It would have been an unthinkable suggestion just a few months ago, when the insults were at their peak — Mr Trump was a “senile dotard” and Mr Kim was “Little Rocket Man”.

Trump officials had received a briefing in Washington from the South Koreans beforehand.

Even normally critical media pundits acknowledged that Trump’s ‘madman approach’ to North Korea was working.

The South Koreans issued an affirmative statement. The South China Morning Post reported:

South Korea’s national security adviser Chung Eui-yong made the announcement of Kim’s offer in Washington on Thursday (Friday morning Hong Kong time).

Chung said Kim was “committed to denuclearisation” and would refrain from any further nuclear and missile tests.

He said Kim wanted to meet Trump as “soon as possible” and that Trump said “he would meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula.

The White House posted Chung Eui-yong’s full statement, including this:

Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests. He understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue

The Republic of Korea, along with the United States, Japan, and our many partners around the world remain fully and resolutely committed to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Along with President Trump, we are optimistic about continuing a diplomatic process to test the possibility of a peaceful resolution.

The Republic of Korea, the United States, and our partners stand together in insisting that we not repeat the mistakes of the past, and that the pressure will continue until North Korea matches its words with concrete actions.

A video of his announcement can be found here.

That Sunday, March 11, the news shows were abuzz with analysis of the upcoming US-North Korea talks, including perspectives from John Bolton and Mike Pompeo.

Even the anti-Trump Independent in the UK had praise for the American president:

… during a recent, daily grumble about The Donald, I got thinking; if you look past the ridiculous Twitter pronouncements, and the President’s general veneer – what has he actually done? How bad has the 45th President of the United States actually been for the country?

The answer, it might surprise you, is not that bad at all.

Stock market up, unemployment down. After plateauing for much of 2015 and 2016, numbers of manufacturing jobs have been on the rise since Trump’s inauguration …

On foreign policy, he’s been brash and unpredictable, but successful. He can’t take full credit for the defeat of Isis in their traditional strongholds, but they have been defeated. He can’t take full credit for defusing tensions with North Korea – but under President Trump, Kim Jong-un is becoming more receptive to talks with South Korea, and even sent a team to the Winter Olympics. His “quirky” style of diplomacy has led to, in the past few days, talk on the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and the closest thing to a peaceful North Korea we’ve seen in years. On Friday it was even announced that Trump will be meeting with Kim Jong-un

On Wednesday, March 14, news emerged that North Korea was involved with Syria. The Washington Free Beacon reported:

Regional reports have begun to surface indicating North Korea has neared completion of the construction of an underground military base located near Qardaha in Syria, the hometown of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“According to … satellite images and a military source the underground facility has been under construction for seven years, started by the beginning if the Syrian revolution in March 2011,” Zaman Al Wasl, a Syrian news outlet, reported earlier this month. “The high level of secrecy and tight guard in the North Korean base raise speculations whether it’s a nuclear facility or overseas depot for North Korean weapons.”

U.S. officials told the Washington Free Beacon they are monitoring these reports and efforts by North Korea to help Assad rebuild Syria’s chemical weapons factories.

“We are aware of reports regarding possible DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] assistance to Syria to rebuild its chemical weapons capabilities,” a State Department official, speaking on background, told the Free Beacon. “We take these allegations very seriously and we are working assiduously to prevent the Assad regime from obtaining material and equipment to support its chemical weapons program.”

The Trump administration has been engaged in efforts to counter North Korea’s proliferation in Syria, particularly its efforts to supply Assad with chemical weapons.

On Friday, March 23, Legal Insurrection reported that Trump signed the Omnibus Bill with North Korea — and Iran — in mind:

Why the need for government funding for at least 6 months? That could have waited for another short term funding bill, some more muddling through, perhaps even muddling through until the November elections.

What was the rush to sign a bill with increases in authorized military spending NOW?

While Trump ran as someone who wasn’t looking at foreign policy as his reason for election, his presidency and attention increasingly are turning to foreign potential conflicts. In the next couple of months Trump will be dealing with two major potential conflict areas: North Korea and Iran.

As to North Korea, Trump is gearing up for talks with “Little Rocket Man.” As to Iran, Trump is facing fights both with the Europeans and the Iranians as to whether Obama’s Iran Nuclear deal survives. Trump already has made moves to strengthen the U.S. posture. Adding John Bolton as National Security Advisor sends a get-tough signal, a message that Trump will not repeat the appeasement mistakes of Obama-Kerry.

As Trump approaches potential conflict with North Korea and Iran, he could spend the prior months rolling through one “shutdown” after another, one-month spending bills, an inadequate military budget held hostage by Democrats, and the prospect of months more such turmoil at least through the midterm elections.

Alternatively, Trump could approach the North Koreans and Iranians with government funding in place including substantial increases for the military.

Do you think the North Koreans and Iranians care about the domestic spending fights that now occupy media coverage? I doubt it. I do think they care about a Trump focused on rebuilding the military and a U.S. military which has just been given additional resources. Trump wants to be the strong horse, a dramatic change from the Obama administration posture. Add to this increased military aggressiveness by Russia and China.

Elsewhere, speculation returned to a soundbite from the end of 2017 about ‘freeing 25,000,000 slaves worldwide’. Was it about human trafficking or was it about North Korea, as Q commented? (Image below courtesy of Reddit’s Q-oriented GreatAwakening)

On March 28, Trump tweeted:

Press Secretary Sarah Sanders had this to say:

That day, the KORUS trade agreement between the US and South Korea was agreed upon in principle:

On March 29, the AP announced that a highly historic summit between North and South Korea would take place on April 27:

Summit meeting will be only the third time leaders of the divided Koreas have met in the 65 years since the end of the Korean War.

On April 9, WND interviewed Peter Schweitzer, author of Secret Empires: How Our Politicians Hide Corruption and Enrich Their Families and Friends, who said that China was a huge part of the North Korea picture:

“My view has always been that absent China skirting the rules and going fast and loose with commercial ties, North Korea would be on the brink of collapse,” Schweizer told WND in an interview.

“I think that’s the opportunity that Trump has, to go to the Chinese and say: ‘Look, the bottom line is you need to deal with this. You need to cut off trade, you need to cut off commercial ties to help us deal with North Korea. Nobody else is in the position to do it the way that you are.’”

Schweizer said critical sectors such as minerals and energy “are what keeps North Korea bumping along while the people are starving.”

“You take that stuff away and the regime has a massive, economic problem,” he said.

On April 17, just days before the summit between the two Koreas, CNBC reported:

North and South Korea are in talks to announce a permanent end to the officially declared military conflict between the two countries, daily newspaper Munhwa Ilbo reported Tuesday, citing an unnamed South Korean official.

Ahead of a summit next week between North Korean premier Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, lawmakers from the neighboring states were thought to be negotiating the details of a joint statement that could outline an end to the confrontation

Pyongyang and Seoul have technically been at war since the 1950-1953 Korean conflict ended with a truce — and not a peace treaty. Geopolitical tensions have occasionally flared up since the armistice, although to date both countries have managed to avoid another devastating conflict.

CTH’s TheLastRefuge — aka Sundance — pointed out the change in 12 months:

That day, Trump welcomed Japan’s prime minister Abe to Mar a Lago along with a delegation. CTH told us:

The formal bilateral meeting began shortly before 4 p.m. POTUS Trump and PM Abe together with translators and delegations. The U.S. side: Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, Chief of Staff John Kelly, National Security Adviser John Bolton, US Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty and National Security Council Asia director Matthew Pottinger.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said their one-on-one meeting was productive. On North Korea, “for the first time in the history of the world there will be a summit meeting between the United States and North Korea”, Abe said. Prime Minister Abe said “Trump has applied maximum pressure on the North and credited it for leading to the direct talks.”

Trump described their meeting as ‘great’.

The next day, we found out that Mike Pompeo had already been in North Korea on secret talks:

The White House declined further comment.

On April 19, South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in was optimistic about the upcoming summit. NBC reported:

Moon said big-picture agreements about denuclearization, establishing a peace regime and normalization of relations between the two Koreas and the United States should not be difficult to reach through summits between the North and South, and between the North and the United States.

“I don’t think denuclearization has different meanings for South and North Korea,” Moon said during a lunch with chief executives of Korean media companies. “The North is expressing a will for a complete denuclearization.”

“They have not attached any conditions that the U.S. cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea,” he continued. “All they are talking about is the end of hostile policies against North Korea, followed by a guarantee of security.”

On April 21, Yonhap News Agency reported:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has announced that the country will suspend nuclear and missile tests and shut down a nuclear test site in the northern area, state media said Saturday.

From April 21, North Korea will stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles,” the Korean Central News Agency said.

Trump was delighted.

Even CNN had to acknowledge this was yuge news — ha ha — on Wolf Blitzer’s show no less. Mediaite has a report and video:

CNN’s Will Ripley, one of the few journalists who regularly reports from the repressive Hermit Kingdom, phoned in to Wolf Blitzer’s show on Friday night to cover the breaking news …

“Wolf, I have to say, I am really almost speechless here at the pace at which North Korea has done this U-turn,” Ripley reacted. “This all started with Donald Trump agreeing to sit down with a summit with Kim Jong Un.”

Meanwhile, Mike Pompeo was able to guarantee North Korea’s release of three American citizens that day. They returned home on May 10.

On April 22, Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin met with the South Koreans:

Productive discussion with South Korean DPM KIM Dong-Yeon. The US remains committed to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

That day, we found out more about Mike Pompeo’s secret trip to Pyongyang from the Korean Noon news agency:

Mike Pompeo met with KJU 3-4 times during his 3-day stay in Pyongyang per Asahi Shimbun. KJU reportedly said he’s on the same wavelength with Pompeo: “This is the first time I’m meeting someone who has the same fire in the belly as I do” (loose translation)

Also:

Per Asahi, KJU conveyed to Pompeo NK could “completely denuclearize” and that USFK would not have to leave. KJU wants full diplomatic relations with US and easing of UNSCR & bilateral sanctions in return. Pompeo went with 5 CIA staff and was aided by NIS

Pompeo first met with Kim on April 1:

The meetings were very successful per Asahi. Pompeo first met KJU on April 1 and that’s when he was told about “complete denuclearization”. Pompeo was aided by NIS chief Suh Hoon, who has formed working relationships with both Pompeo and NK’s Kim Yong-chol

Not everything was 100% successful:

But there are still differences: Asahi says while KJU may have expressed “willingness to denuclearize,” he was reluctant to include specific, time-based clauses as part of summit agreement, while calling for diplomatic relations and easing of sanctions.

Noon also told us of an ongoing CIA presence in North Korea:

CIA employees in Pyongyang? You don’t have to travel that far down the memory lane to realize this happened before: Avril Haines and Michael Morel were both in Pyongyang in 2012 during Obama’s term but they didn’t get to meet KJU. But they’ve had contacts

Pompeo was finally confirmed as Rex Tillerson’s replacement at State on April 26:

The historic Inter-Korean Summit between the two Korean leaders took place as planned on April 27 (videos here, here and here):

Kim walked across the border to South Korea for the summit, which was held in Panmunjom in the DMZ.

Kim wrote this message in the guest book at Peace House:

‘new history starts now; age of peace, from the starting point of history’

The leaders issued a joint statement:

The description for that video reads, in part:

During the Friday summit, the first between the two Koreas’ leader in more than a decade, Kim was accompanied by his sister and confidante, Kim Yo-jong, and the 90-year-old nominal head of the North Korean state, Kim Yong-nam.

During the meeting, the South Korean president expressed hope for achievement of a “bold agreement.”

The White House sent this message:

On the occasion of Republic of Korea President Moon Jae-ins historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, we wish the Korean people well. We are hopeful that talks will achieve progress toward a future of peace and prosperity for the entire Korean Peninsula. The United States appreciates the close coordination with our ally, the Republic of Korea, and looks forward to continuing robust discussions in preparation for the planned meeting between President Donald J. Trump and Kim Jong Un in the coming weeks.

By the end of the day (full video here):

The Korean leaders then shared dinner together.

Ambassador Chris Hill summed up the first day as follows:

President Trump sent his congratulations. The South Korean foreign minister remembered Trump in an interview with CNN’s Christine Amanpour:

South Korea’s Foreign Minister tells me in Seoul that “clearly credit goes to President Trump” for bringing North Korea to the negotiating table. “He’s been determined to come to grips with this from day one,” Kang Kyung-wha says.

The Straits Times published the full text of the Panmunjom Declaration for peace, prosperity and unification of the Korean Peninsula which resulted from the Inter-Korean Summit. Excerpts follow:

1) South and North Korea affirmed the principle of determining the destiny of the Korean nation on their own accord and agreed to bring forth the watershed moment for the improvement of inter-Korean relations by fully implementing all existing agreements and declarations adopted between the two sides thus far.

2) South and North Korea agreed to hold dialogue and negotiations in various fields including at high level, and to take active measures for the implementation of the agreements reached at the summit.

3) South and North Korea agreed to establish a joint liaison office with resident representatives of both sides in the Gaeseong region in order to facilitate close consultation between the authorities as well as smooth exchanges and cooperation between the peoples.

4) South and North Korea agreed to encourage more active cooperation, exchanges, visits and contacts at all levels in order to rejuvenate the sense of national reconciliation and unity.

5) South and North Korea agreed to endeavour to swiftly resolve the humanitarian issues that resulted from the division of the nation, and to convene the Inter-Korean Red Cross Meeting to discuss and solve various issues, including the reunion of separated families.

6) South and North Korea agreed to actively implement the projects previously agreed in the 2007 October 4 Declaration, in order to promote balanced economic growth and co-prosperity of the nation.

The two leaders agreed, through regular meetings and direct telephone conversations, to hold frequent and candid discussions on issues vital to the nation, to strengthen mutual trust and to jointly endeavour to strengthen the positive momentum towards continuous advancement of inter-Korean relations as well as peace, prosperity and unification of the Korean Peninsula.

In this context, President Moon Jae In agreed to visit Pyongyang this fall.

Tomorrow’s post will feature analysis and the events that led to the Singapore Summit, which President Trump attended after the G7 in mid-June.

On Saturday, January 6, 2018, Newsbusters posted an article about a BBC interview with Michael Wolff, author of Fire and Fury, which is about President Donald Trump.

Incidentally, the book is currently available for free online. As such availability likely violates copyright law, I have not posted the link.

Nicholas Fondacaro’s article, ‘Wolff Touts Book “Will Finally Bring Down…This Presidency”’ recaps a BBC interview Wolff gave to the BBC’s Nick Robinson last Saturday. Excerpts follow (emphases in the original):

In an interview with BBC Radio on Saturday, Michael Wolff, the author of the dubiously sourced gossip book targeting President Trump, boasted to host Nick Robinson that “the story” that he told, “will finally end…this presidency” once and for all …

Now, all of this is fascinating, it’s an insight, it’s gossip some of it, it may not be enough to stop him from being president. Whereas, the allegations about Russia may be,” Robinson prefaced. “Do you believe that anything in the book will actually change the chances of the allegations of collusion with Russia being found to be true and therefore leading to the impeachment of the President?

Wolff said:

You know, I think one of the interesting effects of the book so far is a very clear emperor-has-no-clothes effect. That, the story that I have told seems to present this presidency in such a way that it says he can’t do his job. The emperor has no clothes. Suddenly everywhere people are going: ‘Oh my God, it’s true, he has no clothes.’ That’s the background to the perception and the understanding that will finally end this – that will end this presidency.

As retired courtroom lawyer Lionel says, such talk is potentially dangerous:

Incredibly, Wolff told Robinson that Trump hardly has any staff and that he will do little as president. Despite stellar economic results in 2017, Wolff said:

The economy is booming possibly because you’ll have someone who’s not capable of actually implementing any policies or regulation.

In a way, that makes no sense.

In another, such a statement implies that the economy does better with less government interference.

Trump’s insistence on rolling back Obama era regulations has helped the economy improve. Trump was also busy last year negotiating various trade initiatives, such as coal.

In June, the New York Post published an article on coal by Salena Zito, who does an excellent job of covering small town life in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

‘Don’t be so quick to dismiss Trump’s coal mining initiative’ is an eye-opener. For the first time in a decade, a new coal mine opened in Acosta, Pennsylvania. Trump sent his congratulations via video shown to local residents (emphases mine below):

The Acosta Deep Mine in Somerset County marks a dramatic upturn for the area. And while President Trump cannot claim that he brought the industry back here personally (this new mine was already being developed before the election), he is an effective cheerleader for folks who’ve been discounted by the political elite.

“We will begin by employing 70 to 100 miners and we hope to open a total of three new mines in the next 18 months — and that will mean additional hiring,” said George Dethlefsen, CEO of Corsa Coal, which owns the mine.

More than 400 people applied for the first wave of jobs that will pay from $50,000 to $100,000, Dethlefsen said.

In a region where the median household income is $29,050, and nearly 12 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, the economic injection is huge.

It also creates a ripple effect: For every new job generated by the mine, even more jobs like waitresses, hotel workers, barbers or grocery workers are needed to support the community.

Absolutely.

Furthermore, the coal mined in Acosta is being used for steel production:

The coal from this mine is not going to be used for energy — instead, it will be used for the production of steel for the next 15 years. (According to the World Steel Association, coal is used to make 70 percent of the steel today.)

Every single one of us relies on steel in our daily lives. It’s found in our cars, bikes and public transportation. Those wind turbines so loved by environmentalists? Made of steel. The utensils we use to eat? Steel. Medical devices used to save lives? Steel.

Roads, bridges, appliances and even iPhones and computers all contain steel.

Exactly.

This is a great move.

And there is more good news on the coal front. In July, The Conservative Treehouse reported on the increase in American coal exports. This came as news to me:

U.S. EIA data shows a gain of 60.3% so far this year in exports of both steam coal (used to generate electricity) and coking coal (metallurgical coal used for steel manufacturing) as a direct consequence of President Trump’s common sense energy policy.

Interestingly, the largest destinations for the growth in American coal export are the U.K. (+175%) and a doubling of tonnage to both France (+100%), and Asia (+100%). High transport costs to ship coal to the EU are being offset by U.S. coal manufacturing efficiencies and improvements in mining productivity.

Reuters has more:

“Simply to know that coal no longer has to fight the government – that has to have some effect on investment decisions and in the outlook by companies, producers and utilities that use coal,” said Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association.

Shaylyn Hynes, a spokeswoman at the U.S. Energy Department, said: “These numbers clearly show that the Trump Administration’s policies are helping to revive an industry that was the target of costly and job killing overregulation from Washington for far too long.”

Coal could also be a major economic weapon used against North Korea, one of China’s principal coal suppliers.

Recall that China’s president Xi Jinping met with Trump at Mar a Lago on April 6 and 7, 2017. On April 11, Reuters reported:

Following repeated missile tests that drew international criticism, China banned all imports of North Korean coal on Feb. 26, cutting off the country’s most important export product.

To curb coal traffic between the two countries, China’s customs department issued an official order on April 7 telling trading companies to return their North Korean coal cargoes, said three trading sources with direct knowledge of the order …

The Trump administration has been pressuring China to do more to rein in North Korea, which sends the vast majority of its exports to its giant neighbor across the Yellow Sea …

North Korea is a significant supplier of coal to China, especially of the type used for steel making, known as coking coal.

To make up for the shortfall from North Korea, China has ramped up imports from the United States in an unexpected boon for U.S. President Donald Trump, who has declared he wants to revive his country’s struggling coal sector.

Eikon data shows no U.S. coking coal was exported to China between late 2014 and 2016, but shipments soared to over 400,000 tonnes by late February.

This trend was exacerbated after cyclone Debbie knocked out supplies from the world’s top coking coal region in Australia’s state of Queensland, forcing Chinese steel makers to buy even more U.S. cargoes.

I digressed from Wolff. However, he and his fellow ilk in the media deserve to have their collars felt by the authorities. What Wolff is doing with his book and what the media have been doing with fake news could be construed as advocating the overthrow of government, or, as Lionel tweeted, sedition.

On Friday, November 10, 2017, President Trump left China for Vietnam. First Lady Melania Trump remained in China for another day:

Mrs Trump visited Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage for the Month of the Military Family Celebration. She then returned to Washington DC.

The US president spent two days in Vietnam before flying to the Philippines:

At the zoo, a group of schoolchildren greeted Mrs Trump. She had a gift for every child:

For anyone wondering:

Lucky children. They were able to tour the zoo with her:

Mrs Trump expressed her thanks for being able to see GuGu the panda:

Then it was time for her final destination:

The Conservative Treehouse gives us background on the tour:

First Lady Melania Trump visited the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall in China as the sun was starting to settle low on the horizon. It was windy and slightly cold as our First Lady signed a guest registry and was presented with a scroll from atop one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

A state official said that Yukun Zhang, chairman, Mutianyu Great Wall Travel Service Co., Ltd, received the first lady after the ride up on the cable car. After signing the guest registry Mrs. Trump made her way up a short flight of stairs to the Great Wall.

Mrs Trump wore flats:

Meanwhile, the US president landed at Da Nang International Airport:

Trump met US veterans who chose to live in Vietnam after the war. They met at the Hyatt Regency Da Nang Resort and Spa. This transcript has his address and exchange with the retired soldiers. An excerpt follows:

Our accountability efforts in Vietnam are very, very important to all of us. We will not rest until all of the 1,253 missing veterans are returned home. I want to thank the government of Vietnam for their assistance in our efforts.

Today, I’m signing a proclamation to honor the veterans of the Vietnam War. This is part of the ongoing 13-year commemoration of their sacrifice for freedom. And I just want to thank these seven very brave people for being here. I got to know them for a few minutes upfront, and they are definitely tough, smart cookies. We like them. I think they like me too. I’m not sure, but I think — (applause) — no, I think they do. I think they do. I think they see what we’re doing for our military.

Would you like to say a few words, any of you guys? Would you like to say something? Huh?

MR. HOPPER: Sure.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Come on. Come on up here. Here’s your chance. You can be a big star now.

MR. HOPPER: Well, I’m not sure about that. But just on behalf of many of us standing up in the front of the room today, I just want to say what an honor and privilege it is to be with our President. I so admire what you’re doing for our country.

Thank you for your dedication to our military, our country. And we’re all behind you in making America great again.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much. That’s so nice. Thank you very much.

MR. HOPPER: Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)

MR. REYNOLDS: It’s an honor to be here. My family is so proud. My wife loves you. (Laughter.) She does. We all love you.

All of the veterans that I represent in my community asked me to say to you: Keep doing what you’re doing. We need to win. We need to make America great again. And we definitely think you are on the right track. So, thank you. It’s honor to meet you, sir.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: We will keep it going, and we will get it done.

MR. REYNOLDS: Absolutely.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: No doubt.

MR. REYNOLDS: I believe it. Thank you very much.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Anybody?

MR. MORGAN: Mr. President, from my heart, thank you for your support of the military, and it’s an honor to be here as one of seven Vietnam veterans representing the 58,000 heroes who never made it home.

Thank you so much.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you so much. (Applause.)

MR. MORGAN: Thank you, sir. Thank you.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: You nervous?

MR. GOODE: I am nervous.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I don’t think so. I don’t think so.

MR. GOODE: I am nervous.

You know, it’s an honor for me to be here today to meet the President of the United States that’s doing such a fine job for America. I’m so proud of him and what he’s doing, and I’m also really proud to represent all those veterans that are back home to be one of seven of these veterans that are here today. It’s such an honor to represent the rest of those veterans in the United States of America.

Thank you.

This is the text of the aforementioned proclamation. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. Nearly every president since then has made a statement about finding the 1,253 missing veterans. Perhaps Trump will be the one to make that happen.

He also tweeted a 242nd happy birthday greeting to the United States Marine Corps.

Trump then went to the APEC CEO Summit 2017 at the Ariyana Da Nang Exhibition Center.

Trump addressed the summit. Note ‘H.E.’ before his name — His Excellency — in the video below:

The full transcript is here. This is is some of what he said:

This next one is really important:

This is also very important (emphases mine):

Earlier this week, I addressed the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea and urged every responsible nation to stand united in declaring that every single step the North Korean regime takes toward more weapons is a step it takes into greater and greater danger. The future of this region and its beautiful people must not be held hostage to a dictator’s twisted fantasies of violent conquest and nuclear blackmail

We must also deal decisively with other threats to our security and the future of our children, such as criminal cartels, human smuggling, drugs, corruption, cybercrime, and territorial expansion. As I have said many times before: All civilized people must come together to drive out terrorists and extremists from our societies, stripping them of funding, territory, and ideological support. We must stop radical Islamic terrorism.

So let us work together for a peaceful, prosperous, and free Indo-Pacific. I am confident that, together, every problem we have spoken about today can be solved and every challenge we face can be overcome.

If we succeed in this effort, if we seize the opportunities before us and ground our partnerships firmly in the interests of our own people, then together we will achieve everything we dream for our nations and for our children.

We will be blessed with a world of strong, sovereign, and independent nations, thriving in peace and commerce with others. They will be places where we can build our homes and where families, businesses, and people can flourish and grow.

If we do this, will we look at the globe half a century from now, and we will marvel at the beautiful constellation of nations — each different, each unique, and each shining brightly and proudly throughout this region of the world. And just as when we look at the stars in the night sky, the distance of time will make most of the challenges we have and that we spoke of today seem very, very small.

What will not seem small — what is not small — will be the big choices that all of our nations will have to make to keep their stars glowing very, very brightly.

Another fabulous speech by Stephen Miller. What a man he is, blessed by God with a talent for prose.

He also met Vladimir Putin ahead of their meeting on November 11. Men were given silk Vietnamese shirts to wear for the evening’s events (the more formal photo is here):

The two did not meet formally at APEC, although they found time to converse. Reuters reported that they discussed defeating ISIS and confirmed their commitment to Syria’s sovereignty. The Daily Mail has more. Both media outlets say that the Kremlin issued a joint statement, however, the White House offered no confirmation.

The APEC gala dinner followed. Before dinner:

A cultural performance concluded a busy day.

Meanwhile, Mrs Trump was in Alaska and spent time talking with the children attending school at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage. The children were decorating paper fish and sculpting Play Doh:

She also spoke with military personnel:

Mrs Trump arrived at the White House late that night.

More on Trump’s second day in Vietnam tomorrow.

As part of their tour of Asia …

… President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump landed in China on Wednesday, November 8, 2017, as guests of President Xi Jinping and Madame Peng Liyuan.

The caption refers to the contrast with Obama’s arrival on September 4, 2016 in Beijing for the G20 summit, as the Telegraph reported:

All the other world leaders appeared to have been welcomed to the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou in traditional diplomatic style, treading onto a red carpet laid on a rolling airport staircase positioned outside the main exit of the aircraft.

Mr Obama, however, instead used Air Force One’s smaller exit as he arrived on his final tour of Asia, sparking suggestions that he had been snubbed by his Chinese hosts.

The Chinese gave the Trumps a warm welcome, complete with a military honour guard, a marching band and cheering children (start at 12:00):

AP reported that this is highly unusual:

The ceremony accompanying Trump’s arrival Wednesday afternoon was elaborate even by China’s lavish standards. Heads of state are usually given a low-key reception at the airport, with the real pomp and circumstance reserved for his or her arrival at the Great Hall of the People in the center of Beijing.

This was the schedule for the day:

3:30pm / 2:30am THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY will have tea with President Xi Jinping of the Peoples Republic of China and Madame Peng Liyuan, Forbidden City, Beijing, Peoples Republic of China

3:55pm / 2:55am THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY tour the Forbidden City and view an opera performance with President Xi and Madame Peng Liyan, Forbidden City, Beijing, Peoples Republic of China.

6:00pm / 5:00am THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY have dinner with President Xi and Madame Peng, Beijing, Peoples Republic of China

7:05pm / 6:05am THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY depart the Forbidden City en route their overnight accommodations, Beijing, Peoples Republic of China.

The Forbidden City provided beautiful photo ops. The Hall of Supreme Harmony is in the background:

Someone tweeted:

Nothing says MAGA like tea and opera!

Indeed.

On the MAGA front, AFP reported:

US and Chinese companies signed nearly 20 deals worth a total $9 billion on Wednesday at the start of President Donald Trump’s state visit to Beijing.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang oversaw a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People but they did not immediately give details about the 19 deals.

Wang said the agreements were merely a “warmup” before Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping oversee their own ceremony on Thursday involving bigger deals, including in exports of natural gas and soybeans.

Trump plans to use the three-day trip to press Xi on China’s massive trade surplus with the United States, which slightly fell in October to $26.6 billion, according to official Chinese data released on Wednesday.

The Daily Mail has photos of the Trumps touring other parts of the Forbidden City, including the Conservation Scientific Laboratory, where the elaborate automata clocks intrigued the president.

Then it was time for pleasant entertainment, albeit outdoors. There is no glass on the window where the Xis and the Trumps sat:

Afterwards, the Xis and the Trumps had dinner in the Forbidden City. Several media outlets have reported that no foreign leader has been given this honour since the People’s Republic of China was founded 68 years ago. This is YUGE!

That evening, Trump tweeted:

That tweet is a big deal, because China blocks access to Twitter, Facebook and other Western social media. Reuters reported that not only did Trump manage to evade what is known as the Great Firewall, he also changed his Twitter banner to a photo taken at the opera that evening:

The Twitter banner upload did not go unnoticed by Chinese state media, with state broadcaster CCTV flashing screenshots of the photograph on Thursday.

Trump’s visit was also the third-most talked-about topic on Chinese social media platform Weibo over the last 24 hours, trailing only the birthday of a singer in a Chinese boy band and a weekly Asian pop song chart.

Many people wondered how Trump managed to evade China’s tough internet controls …

Many foreigners log on to virtual private networks (VPNs) to access content hosted outside of China. Another option is to sign up for a data-roaming service before leaving one’s home country.

On the morning of Thursday, November 9, an impressive welcome ceremony took place, which shows what honoured guests the American president and first lady were.

The main American news channels did not broadcast this.

Yet, in China, this was the first time such an event was broadcast on live television.

Everything was more than perfect, from the soldiers’ standing to attention, their formations, to the military band music — which included The Star-Spangled Banner and Hail to the Chief — to the cheering Chinese and American schoolchildren. I’ve never seen such precision:

 

Afterwards, Xi, Trump and their respective delegations met in Peking’s Great Hall for a series of meetings. The two men met first in a closed door session, then invited their delegations to join them for discussions on trade, finance and security.

Reuters reported that a soybean deal was made. The US has a record crop:

The United States soybean industry has signed two letters of intent with Chinese importers covering a $5 billion purchase of an additional 12 million tonnes of soybeans in the 2017/18 marketing year.

The non-binding agreements, disclosed by the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) in a statement, are among a series of trade deals announced during the visit of U.S. President Donald Trump to Beijing. China is the world’s top soybean buyer, and the United States is its second supplier after Brazil.

In the first agreement, signed on Nov. 8, the China Chamber of Commerce of Foodstuffs and Native Produce said it intended to purchase 8 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans worth $3.4 billion.

A second agreement will be signed on Thursday between grains trader ADM and China’s COFCO for intent to purchase 4 million tonnes of soybeans worth $1.6 billion, said the USSEC.

LNG — liquid natural gas — was also on the agenda, as CNBC reported:

Despite the recent gains and the agreement with Trump, Chinese buyers are still only purchasing U.S. LNG from third parties in short-term spot trades. And there is currently only one company, Cheniere Energy, capable of exporting large shipments of LNG from the United States.

Cheniere CEO Jack Fusco and Texas LNG Chief Operating Officer Langtry Meyer are joining the Trump delegation. The companies did not respond to questions about their agenda in China, but energy research firm Wood Mackenzie said securing commitments is likely at the top of Trump’s list.

“The fact that Trump will arrive in Beijing with a large business delegation in tow, including a sizeable contingent from the energy sector, indicates that the White House is looking to secure concrete commercial agreements from the upcoming trip,” Kerry-Anne Shanks, head of Asia gas and LNG at Wood Mackenzie, said in an email briefing on Tuesday.

While meetings took place, Madame Pen Liyaun took Mrs Trump on a tour of China’s Art and Design School in Beijing:

That afternoon, the two leaders held a joint press conference in the Great Hall.

The Conservative Treehouse summarised Trump’s remarks (emphasis in the original):

President Trump followed President Xi’s remarks with a speech as deliberate and unambiguous as the internal audience would ever fathom hearing.  President Trump respectfully pulled no punches in his direct and emphatic style; stating that China needed to engage in, well, to use China’s familiar wording, “correct thinking” on a variety of issues – including trade and their necessary responsibility toward North Korea.

No-one else could pull this off, except Trump. Not that way. The best part is always the emphatic part at the end.  President Trump gives the look saying: well, that’s that then; that’s all I’ve got to say about that... smiles bigly, and the diplomatic opponent tries not to look smaller than they were ten minutes earlier. [key word, ‘tries‘] …

Also note Trump’s alpha male handshake:

That evening, President Xi and Madame Peng Liyuan hosted a state dinner in the Trumps’ honour. Like the welcome ceremony, films of the two men from prior meetings were shown beforehand. The optics were clear — Xi clearly respects Trump. As the original video posted was withdrawn, I had to swap to a less detailed one:

After the film clips, Xi gave a speech, followed by Trump.

Xi recalled President Richard Nixon’s trip to China 45 years ago during the Cold War. He spoke of the two countries’ continuing partnership and co-operation to better mankind. He then offered a toast. Trump smiled broadly, raising his glass (soft drink).

Then, it was Trump’s turn to speak. A flourish of trumpets preceded his speech. He thanked Xi for his ‘generous words’ and warm hospitality ‘from the moment we arrived’. He spoke of their tour of the Forbidden City. He said their meetings presented an ‘incredible opportunity’ to spread ‘peace and prosperity’ around the world. He spoke of the historic characteristics that the US and China share, including venturing into the unknown. He spoke of achieving a ‘more just, fair and peaceful world for our children’. He looked forward to ‘a friendship that will grow stronger and stronger’. He then offered a toast.

President Xi — and the rest of the room — gave Trump a standing ovation.

After a film of Trump’s granddaughter Arabella Kushner (Ivanka’s daughter) sang all the verses of a folk song — My Good Mother — in Mandarin, which the Xis clearly loved. Peng Liyuan, a former folk singer, sang along softly. Arabella began by addressing Xi and Peng as ‘grandpa’ and ‘grandma’ — a child diplomat!

Then, dinner was served. Afterwards, entertainment was provided in the form of a cultural performance.

On the subject of fair trade and how China has taken advantage of the United States for so many years, Trump said:

Trump had a tremendous visit:

CNBC reported that 37 major trade deals have been signed:

The dollar value of those deals is in excess of $250 billion. Caterpillar, Boeing, and Goldman Sachs are just some of the notable names on the list of companies that made deals with China, the full list of which is below.

See the article for more details.

More to follow tomorrow. Mrs Trump stayed in China for another day while President Trump flew to Vietnam.

What a week and it’s only Tuesday! Lots of news to cover in the days ahead.

On Monday, November 28, 2016, Cardinal Joseph Zen, a former bishop of Hong Kong, warned that Pope Francis:

may not know the Communist persecutors who have killed hundreds of thousands.

The Guardian reported that the Pope is working on an agreement whereby Chinese officials could have a hand in approving Catholic bishops.

Zen criticised the move, pointing out that it would be:

a surrender

and

betraying Jesus Christ.

Zen made his remarks at the Salesian English School in Hong Kong, where, at age 84, he is still a teacher. He added:

Maybe the pope is a little naive, he doesn’t have the background to know the Communists in China. The pope used to know the persecuted Communists [in Latin America], but he may not know the Communist persecutors who have killed hundreds of thousands.

It’s amazing that anyone the Pope’s age would not know the statistics and nature of Chinese Communists, but perhaps the Cardinal was being charitable.

Currently, Chinese Catholics are free to worship at state-approved churches. The state-controlled China Catholic Patriotic Association appoints their bishops.

However, an underground network of Catholic churches also exists, thought to attract many more Catholics than the state churches.

Why does the Vatican seek this new agreement? Zen explained:

With “fake freedom” under a proposed deal, priests could more easily preach and more churches would open, Zen predicted, but “it’s only the impression of freedom, it’s not real freedom, the people sooner or later will see the bishops are puppets of the government and not really the shepherds of the flock.”

“The official bishops are not really preaching the gospel,” Zen added “They are preaching obedience to Communist authority.”

That brings to mind the warning from Jeremiah about leading one’s flock astray. The Pope and clergy agreeing with him on this subject might have a lot to answer for one day.

Oddly, some Chinese Catholics welcome the proposed Vatican agreement, still under negotiation for the foreseeable future:

“If they could really strike a deal, not only would us Catholics be happy, but all of the Chinese people should rejoice,” said Zhao, 36, who has been a Catholic for 20 years and works at the oldest Catholic church in China, close to Tiananmen Square in Beijing. He declined to give his full name because of the sensitivity of discussing religion.

“Chinese society needs faith right now,” he added, saying a warming of ties would increase the number of Catholics, “which is a benefit to all society”.

The Guardian says that China has an estimated 10m Catholics and 90m Protestants. The New York Times gives a more conservative estimate of 60m Christians.

Protestant churches are also required to be registered with the Chinese state and operate within government rules.

Unregistered Protestant churches are actively vandalised by the state:

a recent campaign by authorities in eastern China has seen more than 1,200 crosses removed from buildings and churches demolished.

The New York Times has more on vandalism and arrests concerning the Salvation Church and the Living Stone Church, both of which are unregistered and deemed to be dangerous to the state.

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