The ‘neutralization option’ in North Korea
The possibility of the United States launching a preemptive attack against North Korea’s nuclear missile program appears to have receded with Pyongyang’s recent peace overtures, but the two are connected. The conventional wisdom holds that such a strike, dubbed a “bloody nose,” is unthinkable. But that ignores the long history of U.S.-South Korean planning for war against North Korea, the extensive intelligence collected on the North’s conventional and nuclear forces, and the overwhelming U.S. military advantage.
The Friendship Bridge misnomer
China and North Korea have long ceased being true friends and allies. Beijing, just as Washington, is at a loss for how to stop the North Korean leader’s nuclear brinkmanship. The Chinese government wants the country to be seen abroad as a great new power, equal to the U.S. in dealing with the Korean Peninsula issue. But the reality is harsh. Over seven decades, the only policy tool that China has finessed to calm Pyongyang is paying money to the Kim family. In return, Pyongyang insults Beijing whenever its leader gets in a fit, and it embarrasses China abroad. No money means no talk.
Putin’s potential contribution to ending the U.S.-North Korea standoff
U.S. President Donald Trump will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin at the APEC summit this weekend. Although allegations of his campaign’s collaboration with Russia during last year’s election has made it hard for Mr. Trump to negotiate with the Kremlin, Mr. Putin’s assistance on the North Korea crisis could prove very useful. It would also be in Russia’s interest. The price the U.S. might have to pay in concessions could be high, but a solution where Washington and Russia cooperate to defuse the North Korea crisis is likely.
The many faces of Rosneft
Over the past decade or so, Russian oil giant Rosneft has concluded some eye-popping deals and more than doubled production. But its rapid growth has been based on questionable deals and huge debts. Behind the scenes, its CEO, Igor Sechin, has mastered Kremlin power plays. But his circle of enemies is growing. The future of Russia’s oil industry will hinge on how far he continues to push the envelope and whether Rosneft can overcome the legacy he has built.
Economic sanctions are bound to be a long-term failure
Trade is a powerful tool – it is one of the best ways to bring people together for mutual benefit. Limiting trade can be used as a weapon, and it is one the United States and the European Union are wielding against Russia and Iran. And while the goals Western governments aim to achieve are noble, sanctions are likely to backfire. They will strengthen the regimes they are meant to weaken, and will reduce American and European political clout around the globe.
Kim Jong-nam murder challenges China
For decades, China has put up with the antics of the Kim family in Pyongyang to keep the Korean peninsula divided. But the spectacular murder of dictator Kim Jong-un’s half brother may have stretched Beijing’s patience to the breaking point.
Europe and the potential for a Trump-Putin deal
Given United States President Donald Trump’s praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin, European leaders are worried that a deal to normalize relations between the two countries could be in the works, causing upheaval in decades of value-based Western policies. While there is certainly reason for concern, the obstacles to such a deal being struck are huge.
Realignment in the U.S.-Russia-China triangle
The Trump administration seems likely to revolutionize the United States’ relationships with Russia and China by seeking rapprochement with the former and putting pressure on the latter. That could significantly swing the balance of power in the so-called strategic triangle between the three countries, with repercussions that will reverberate throughout Asia and the world.
Kim Watch: How China sold out its coal industry
A senior American diplomat let slip that North Korea makes $1 billion a year on coal exports, mostly to China. That will come as a surprise to anyone who puts faith in UN sanctions to block Pyongyang's nuclear program. It is also grim news for Chinese coal producers, who are on the verge of financial collapse.