The North Korean summit and deal – by Tyler Cowen – Marginal REVOLUTION

by  Tyler Cowen June 12, 2018 at 8:46 am in Current Affairs Political Science

“Many of you have asked what I think, so here goes:

1. There is a secret (and unenforceable) deal beneath what is reported.  You may think this is good or bad, but for heaven’s sake don’t just be judging the press release.

2. If they didn’t actually agree to anything, that is fine.

3. I am reading so much yelping about how Trump “legitimized” Kim.  The status quo ex ante simply was terrible, and there is no reason to think this change is for the worse.  Trump’s great “virtue” in this regard was simply to be some mix of ignorant/disrespectful of the prior “expert consensus” and approach the problem afresh with a rather direct transactional and person-centered, personality-centered mentality.

4. As I tweeted: “Isn’t the whole point of the “deal” just to make them go visit Singapore? The real spectacle is not always where you are looking. And I hope someone brought them to the right chili crab place.”

The goal is to show the North Korean leadership there is a better way than playing the Nuclear Hermit Kingdom game.  We won’t know for some time whether this has succeeded.  Here is good FT coverage on this point.  There are in fact numerous signs that the North Koreans are considering serious reforms.  Of course those could be a feint, but the probabilities are rising in a favorable direction.  Economic cooperation with South Korea is increasing at an astonishing pace.”

Source: The North Korean summit and deal – Marginal REVOLUTION

Posted in: Korea - North and South Korea, Politics and Economics

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Opinion | Trump Was Outfoxed in Singapore – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT

It sure looks as if President Trump was hoodwinked in Singapore.

Trump made a huge concession — the suspension of military exercises with South Korea. That’s on top of the broader concession of the summit meeting itself, security guarantees he gave North Korea and the legitimacy that the summit provides his counterpart, Kim Jong-un.

Within North Korea, the “very special bond” that Trump claimed to have formed with Kim will be portrayed this way: Kim forced the American president, through his nuclear and missile tests, to accept North Korea as a nuclear equal, to provide security guarantees to North Korea, and to cancel war games with South Korea that the North has protested for decades.

In exchange for these concessions, Trump seems to have won astonishingly little. In a joint statement, Kim merely “reaffirmed” the same commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula that North Korea has repeatedly made since 1992.

“They were willing to de-nuke,” Trump crowed at his news conference after his meetings with Kim. Trump seemed to believe he had achieved some remarkable agreement, but the concessions were all his own.

Source: Opinion | Trump Was Outfoxed in Singapore – The New York Times

David Lindsay:

This writer loves Nicholas Kristof, and this is another thoughtful piece by him. However, I have more to add to it. I agree with the NYT commenter, that it was nothing to Trump to give up the war games with South Korea, this was one of his promises to his base. I’m not sure he lost anything he cares about, since what he actually won, was the taking over and dominating of the American and world press. He successfully made himself the center of attention. That he shredded our relations with our NATO allies, and praised won of the most brutal dictators in the world, is a small price to pay for so much attention.

I do like another comment, that this is just a tempest in a teapot.  We are not out of danger, if Trump gets wind that he has been perceived as the weaker negotiator, in front of the whole world, he might get belligerent. Kudos to the president of South Korea for bringing this thawing about.

An expert on NPR made the astute comment, that North Korea is subtly re-balancing their position in East Asia, moving slightly towards the west, and making themselves less reliant on China, the hungry elephant in the room. Or is China a Chimera:  “(in Greek mythology) a fire-breathing female monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail.”

It is also important that Kim Jung-un has declared, his nuclear deterrent is in place, and he promises to his people he will improve the North Korean economy. So as long as we are patient, there is opportunity for peaceful improvement.

David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNewsWorldwide.wordpress.com

Posted in: David Lindsay, Korea - North and South Korea, Nicholas Kristof

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Opinion | Democrats Childishly Resist Trump’s North Korea Efforts – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT

“Shock! Horror! President Trump is actually doing something right.

Sadly, Democrats in Congress are responding in a quite Trumpian way: They seem more concerned with undermining him than supporting a peace process with North Korea. They are on the same side as National Security Adviser John Bolton, quietly subverting attempts to pursue peace.

While international security is complicated, here’s a rule of thumb: When you find yourself on the same side as Bolton, go back and re-examine your position.

Sure, we all wish that Trump treated Justin Trudeau or Angela Merkel with the respect that he now shows Kim Jong-un. Yes, it seems that Trump has been played by Kim. Yet another way of putting it is that Trump is finally investing in the kind of diplomatic engagement that he used to denounce, and that we should all applaud.

Trump’s newfound pragmatism is infinitely preferable to the threat of nuclear war that used to hang over all of us, so it’s mystifying to see Democrats carping about any possible North Korea deal.”

“. . . . .  Now a similar partisan petulance seems to be turning some Democrats into spoilers. Trump’s engagement with North Korea has been chaotic and should have begun with working-level talks, but it’s still better for leaders to exchange handshakes than missiles.

Granted, there’s plenty of reason to be nervous about Trump’s deal making with North Korea, and plans can still collapse. How will Trump manage Kim when he can’t even manage a summit with the Philadelphia Eagles?

Still, even if North Korea won’t hand over nuclear weapons in the next few years, I can imagine it committing in coming months to a sustained moratorium on nuclear tests and long-range missile tests, on production of plutonium and uranium fuel, on transfer of nuclear technology to other countries, such as Syria. North Korea might also destroy an ICBM or two and accept inspectors at its nuclear sites in Yongbyon. Trump and Kim might agree to exchange liaison offices and to declare peace on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea might well cheat, and these are half-steps, not rapid denuclearization. But half-steps toward peace are better than full strides toward war.”

Source: Opinion | Democrats Childishly Resist Trump’s North Korea Efforts – The New York Times

David Lindsay:

Great writing, thank you Nicholas Kristof.  The comments are mostly so negative. As my father liked to say, Don’t let the bastards get you down.

It is ethnocentric to expect North Korea to denuclearize now, but not naive, to think that peace would serve both Koreas and the world. Trump really needs to be contained, since he is so untrustworthy. The real work of peace will be by North and South Korea and their real neighbors.

Here is a comment that I found pleasantly optimistic and could recommend:

Hamid Varzi
Tehran
Times Pick

Donald Trump is irrelevant to the peace process, because he is unpredictable and untrustworthy. If peace occurs it will be in spite of Trump, as no traditional U.S. ‘enemy’ would eschew its only deterrent against a U.S. military attack.

The Koreas will make peace, the North will maintain its nuclear warheads at current levels of readiness, and Trump will claim ‘victory’ in the same way that a rooster claims credit for the sunrise.

Posted in: David Lindsay, Korea - North and South Korea, Nicholas Kristof

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122 Pregnant Whales Were Killed in Japan’s Latest Hunt. Was This Illegal? – The New York Times

By Tacey Rychter      

“More than 120 pregnant female whales were among 333 killed during Japan’s recent annual summer hunt off the coast of Antarctica, according to a new report.

The report, released by the International Whaling Commission this month, said 122 of the slaughtered minke whales were pregnant and 114 were considered immature.

The last hunting season in the Antarctic for Japan ran from Dec. 8 to Feb. 28.

Conservationists said the new report was further evidence that Japan was killing whales for commercial purposes under the guise of scientific research.”

Source: 122 Pregnant Whales Were Killed in Japan’s Latest Hunt. Was This Illegal? – The New York Times

Posted in: Japan, Species Extinction

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Race Against the Rains- video of Rohingya in Bangladesh – The New York Times

Video trip through the largest refugee camp in the world.

The Rohingya in Bangladesh prepare for the coming monsoon rains.

About this article

 

NYTIMES.COM
The race to rebuild the world’s largest refugee camp, where monsoon rains threaten flooding, landslides and disease.

Source: Race Against the Rains – The New York Times

 

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/12/21/world/asia/how-the-rohingya-escaped.ht

Posted in: Bangladesh, Rohingya of Myanmar

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Opinion | Think Military Strikes Could Stop North Korea? Try It and See. – By MARK FITZPATRICK – NYT

“United States-North Korean relations have been a rollercoaster in recent months. Escalating missile tests from Pyongyang and taunting tweets from the White House in 2017 were followed by a period of seeming rapprochement as President Trump and North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, agreed to meet for a summit to discuss “denuclarization.” And now things seem to be taking another turn for the worse.

On Thursday, Mr. Trump, in a fiery letter to Mr. Kim, called off the summit, following North Korea’s clarifications that it would not immediately give up its nuclear weapons. The Trump administration, led by the hawkish national security adviser John Bolton, seems to once again be contemplating military options. In his letter to Mr. Kim, Mr. Trump wrote, “You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.”

The results of any American military action against North Korea could be disastrous. To truly understand the consequences of what such a strike would mean, click through the options presented below.

This is an exercise based on what we know about American policy, North Korea’s military and the strategic calculus of Northeast Asia. It isn’t a sure thing, but it should make clear pretty quickly that the outcome of war on North Korea will be bad, worse or much, much worse.”

Source: Opinion | Think Military Strikes Could Stop North Korea? Try It and See. – The New York Times

David Lindsay:  To science based, law respecting environmentalists like myself, Donald Trump is an embarrassment and a disaster.  This war game set of scenarios by points out many of the serious problems of going to war with North Korea. Sun Tzu would laugh himself into another life, if he could witness such foolishness. His disciples in China must be smiling, while his disciples in Vietnam are probably crying.

Posted in: David Lindsay, Korea - North and South Korea, Military Affairs and Espionage

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Opinion | Why a Trade War With China Isn’t ‘Easy to Win’ (Slightly Wonkish) – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“At this point, it’s looking as if Trump’s tough talk on China trade will turn out to be as empty as his tough talk on, say drug prices. Faced with the prospect of actually going toe to toe with powerful interests – as opposed to doing harm to desperate immigrants, poor people who need health care, etc. – Trump keeps backing down, ignominiously. But what happened to all that bluster about trade wars being “good, and easy to win”?

I can think of four reasons Trump ran away:

1. Someone actually managed to explain the economics to him, and he realized that the trade war wasn’t actually a good idea

2. He just lost his nerve, as he consistently does when confronting people who aren’t powerless

3. He was bribed, with China offering sweet deals to his personal business interests

4. The Chinese also have some kind of tape

It tells you a lot about the state of American leadership that (1) is highly implausible, while 2-4 all seem quite possible. And this means that what I’m about to say may amount to overthinking the issue.”

Source: Opinion | Why a Trade War With China Isn’t ‘Easy to Win’ (Slightly Wonkish) – The New York Times

David Lindsay:  Yes, thank you Paul Krugman.  I agree with this piece. Here are two NYT comments which I recommended.

hen3ry
Westchester, NY

Unlike Europeans Americans don’t travel often to other countries. We don’t speak the languages of the countries around us because we’re so large. We don’t have much incentive to visit France, Great Britain, Spain, Greece, Germany, the Baltic countries. We haven’t had our entire economy and infrastructure ruined by repeated wars. We are a very isolationist nation and ignorant of how other nations solve their social problems. We don’t even want to admit that other nations might do better at solving certain problems than we.

We are a very superstitious nation. We are not especially tolerant of others whether or not they are immigrants. We talk a good line about how sacred life is yet the only life we truly support is prenatal, the rich, and those who are celebrities. The average American is totally disregarded when it comes to most things. We treat our pets better than we treat people.

We’re exceptional all right: in the degree of our cruelty, our willingness to execute innocent people and guilty people, our disinterest in creating and continuing programs that can truly help people when they need it.

America is no longer a middle class country. It’s a country run by and for the uber rich.

Tom Jeff commented 3 hours ago

Tom Jeff
Wilmington DE

Prof. K. writes: “China would be hurt worse than the U.S. in an all-out trade war.”

For 20+ years China has been moving throughout the world buying up resources, outbidding Western post-colonial interests in doing so, and lending money to 3rd world countries. Thus China breaks its dependence on foreign raw materials. Likewise, they are now flooding those markets with good, cheap products, not just those we buy at Walmart and Amazon, but appliances, all-Chinese smartphones & computers, and lots of things we taught them how to make. Thus they break their dependence on foreign profiting on Chinese manufacture (Prof. K’s Apple example) and their dependence on US/Euro markets.

Maybe someone explained to Trump that this trade war IS easy to win – if you are China. So we tariff-boycott Chinese goods? OK, they lose the US market while we suffer a self-induced inflation. But China continues to sell to the rest of the world at even deeper discounts while Apple et al. try to figure out where to build new plants. Thus they lock in new markets, while we, Through the Looking Glass, run as fast as we can just to stay in place.

We need China and her Asian neighbors more than they need us.

 

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Opinion | China Has a Vast Influence Machine- and You Don’t Even Know It – By Yi-Zheng Lian – NYT

By Yi-Zheng Lian

Mr. Lian, a native of Hong Kong, is a former lead writer and chief editor of the Hong Kong Economic Journal. May 21, 2018 Image CreditMatt Chase

“Amid all the hoopla about Russia’s covert attempts to manipulate the 2016 American presidential election, one state has been conspicuously quiet: China. Yet its leaders may well be sneering at the Russians’ heavy hand. Since the project masterminded from Moscow largely relied on social media in the United States, American techies were bound to find out about it soon enough. Likewise with the baldfaced poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter in Britain, which has also been pegged to Moscow. Too crude, too traceable, these operations could only generate a backlash.

China, too, can be a bully, especially with Asian governments in its immediate sphere of influence — imposing economic sanctions on South Korea for deploying defensive missiles or orchestrating the kidnapping of book publishers from Hong Kong and Thailand. But it doesn’t usually set out to openly hurt or antagonize stronger opponents like the United States; instead, it tries to quietly gain an edge for the long haul.

Rather than coercing, China manipulates, preferring to act in moral and legal gray areas. It masks its political motives behind laudable human-interest or cultural projects, blurring the battle line with its adversaries. When the job is done, the other side may not realize it was gamed, or that a strategic game was even going on.”

Source: Opinion | China Has a Vast Influence Machine, and You Don’t Even Know It – The New York Times

Posted in: China, Intelligence

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Opinion | What Really Happens in China’s ‘Re-education’ Camps – By Rian Thum – NYT

“What does it take to intern half a million members of one ethnic group in just a year? Enormous resources and elaborate organization, but the Chinese authorities aren’t stingy. Vast swathes of the Uighur population in China’s western region of Xinjiang — as well as Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other ethnic minorities — are being detained to undergo what the state calls “transformation through education.” Many tens of thousands of them have been locked up in new thought-control camps with barbed wire, bombproof surfaces, reinforced doors and guard rooms.

The Chinese authorities are cagey and evasive, if not downright dismissive, about reports concerning such camps. But now they will have to explain away their own eloquent trail of evidence: an online public bidding system set up by the government inviting tenders from contractors to help build and run the camps.

Uighurs have more in common, culturally and linguistically, with Turks than Han Chinese, and many Uighurs are Muslim. Resentful of China’s heavy-handed rule in the region, some have resisted it, usually through peaceful means, but on occasion violently, by attacking government officials and, exceptionally, civilians. The state, for its part, fuels Islamophobia by labeling ordinary Muslim traditions as the manifestation of religious “extremism.””

Source: Opinion | What Really Happens in China’s ‘Re-education’ Camps – The New York Times

Posted in: Bullies and Scoundrels, China

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Opinion | The Promise of Malaysia’s Old-New Leader – The New York Times

“An autocratic politician emerges from retirement at age 92 to defeat his handpicked but appallingly corrupt successor, and to clear the way for a former deputy he had imprisoned on trumped-up charges. It’s an unlikely plot for a political thriller, but that’s what is happening in Malaysia. And if things play out according to Mahathir Mohamad’s plan, the situation could represent a rare, if curious, victory for democracy in a part of the world where the trend has been in the opposite direction.

Mr. Mahathir, the nonagenarian, dominated Malaysian politics as prime minister from 1981 to 2003, guiding the country through rapid modernization and economic expansion. He also ran the nation with an iron fist, and among his victims was his charismatic protégé, deputy and presumed heir, Anwar Ibrahim, who was imprisoned in 1998 on sham charges of sodomy and corruption. Instead, Mr. Mahathir was followed in office by two handpicked successors.

The second of these, Najib Razak, stands accused of staggering corruption. The American Justice Department, which has been investigating the theft of Malaysian public funds because they were laundered through the United States, says at least $3.5 billion was stolen under Mr. Najib, with $731 million ending up in his personal account.”

Source: Opinion | The Promise of Malaysia’s Old-New Leader – The New York Times

Posted in: Bullies and Scoundrels, Malasia

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