The Emerging EMP Threat to the United States

This report to the statutory Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack by Dr. Mark Schneider, National Institute for Public Policy, (2007) is available at http://www.nipp.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/EMP-Paper-Final-November07.pdf .  It has a special chapter on the North Korean threat, which given the direct threats made by the North Koreans in recent weeks should be taken very seriously.  Whilst we have no way of knowing whether NK’s “thermonuclear bomb” has been optimised for enhanced EMP (as opposed to explosive output) there are clear indications that it could have been designed that way from the beginning, given that much of China’s nuclear arsenal has gone that way.

Above all, as deterrent devices, nukes are not strictly intended to be used, but they get their defensive value from the catastrophic nature of their results.  Since improving the ICBMs accuracy is unimportant for EMP threat, that relieves NK of the necessity of doing all  that complex work.

Citing an August 2005 article that appeared in a South Korean Defense Ministry journal, the report says (Page 11):

What North Korea’s Kim Jong Il would do is to first explode nuclear weapons at a
high altitude . . . while destroying electronic devices and computers and paralyzing
the functions of military strongpoints, logistics plants, and cities . . . [If] it is exploded
at a high altitude of 100km or so . . . all kinds of electrical machinery and, in
particular, electronic devices are damaged. More seriously, many of the artificial
satellites orbiting from 400 to 800km above the earth get demolished. Then, neither
satellite telephone nor GPS could be used, so while the US military, which depends
on satellites, immediately falls into a panic and becomes combat incapable, other
nations around the world that used these satellites would also be greatly affected.

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Aides warned Trump not to attack North Korea’s leader personally before his fiery U.N. address

Considering all the problems with White House leaks, this leak aiming to undermine Trump must mean someone is very angry.  The naming of National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster as one of those warning it could cause a backfire implies it was him who was the leaker (would you leak against someone so senior?)

Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov is obviously disgusted at their kindergarten antics too.

http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-fg-trump-northkorea-20170922-story.html

Aides warned Trump not to attack North Korea’s leader personally before his fiery U.N. address

22 Sept 2017

'Dotard' rockets from obscurity to light up the Trump-Kim exchange, sparking a partisan war of words in U.S.

Senior aides to President Trump repeatedly warned him not to deliver a personal attack on North Korea’s leader at the United Nations this week, saying insulting the young despot in such a prominent venue could irreparably escalate tensions and shut off any chance for negotiations to defuse the nuclear crisis.

Trump’s derisive description of Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man” on “a suicide mission” and his threat to “totally destroy” North Korea were not in a speech draft that several senior officials reviewed and vetted Monday, the day before Trump gave his first address to the U.N. General Assembly, two U.S. officials said.

Some of Trump’s top aides, including national security advisor H.R. McMaster, had argued for months against making the attacks on North Korea’s leader personal, warning it could backfire.

But Trump, who relishes belittling his rivals and enemies with crude nicknames, felt compelled to make a dramatic splash in the global forum.

Some advisors now worry that the escalating war of words has pushed the impasse with North Korea into a new and dangerous phase that threatens to derail the months-long effort to squeeze Pyongyang’s economy through sanctions to force Kim to the negotiating table.

A detailed CIA psychological profile of Kim, who is in his early 30s and took power in late 2011, assesses that Kim has a massive ego and reacts harshly and sometimes lethally to insults and perceived slights.

It also says that the dynastic leader — Kim is the grandson of the communist country’s founder, Kim Il Sung, and son of its next leader, Kim Jong Il — views himself as inseparable from the North Korean state.

As predicted, Kim took Trump’s jibes personally and especially chafed at the fact that Trump mocked him in front of 200 presidents, prime ministers, monarchs and diplomats at the U.N.

Kim volleyed insults back at Trump in an unprecedented personal statement Thursday, calling Trump “a mentally deranged U.S. dotard” and a “gangster” who had to be tamed “with fire.”

Kim’s foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho, threatened to respond with “the most powerful detonation,” a hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific Ocean, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

Trump lobbed another broadside Friday, tweeting that Kim “is obviously a madman” who starves and kills his own people and “will be tested like never before.”

The clash may undermine Trump’s other efforts on the sidelines of the General Assembly meetings.

He spent much of Thursday meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in an effort to carve out new ways to pressure Kim to freeze or roll back his nuclear program.

On Thursday, Trump announced new U.S. sanctions against other countries, foreign businesses and individuals that do business with North Korea, a move likely to chiefly affect China, Pyongyang’s largest trading partner.

John Park, a specialist on Northeast Asia at Harvard’s Kennedy School, said the tit-for-tat insults have created a “new reality” and probably have shut off any chance of starting talks to curb North Korea’s fast-growing nuclear arms program.

“If the belief centers around sanctions being the last hope to averting war and getting North Korea back to the negotiating table, it’s too late,” Park said.

Since taking office, Kim has pushed the nuclear and missile programs far faster than U.S. experts had expected, sharply accelerating the pace of development and tests. Kim has conducted four of the country’s six nuclear tests.

U.S. officials now believe that North Korea has fully one-third of its economy invested in its nuclear and missile programs.

Trump and his senior aides say Kim has used foreign assistance, including trading subsidies from China, to offset such massive spending. They believe the latest U.S. sanctions, on top of the U.N. sanctions, will help choke off some of that income.

In recent months, Pyongyang has tested its first two intercontinental ballistic missiles, conducted an underground test of what it claimed was a powerful hydrogen bomb, and fired midrange ballistic missiles over northern Japan.

U.S. experts assess that North Korea is six to eight months away from building a small nuclear warhead robust enough to survive the intense heat and vibrations of an intercontinental ballistic missile crossing the Pacific and reaching the continental United States.

Given Kim’s record of putting political rivals and dissenters to death, including members of his own family, his public statement blasting Trump makes it highly unlikely that other North Korean officials would participate in talks about ending the country’s nuclear program, Park said.

“There is no one on the North Korean side who is going to entertain or pursue discussion about a diplomatic off-ramp, because that individual would be contradicting the leader, which is lethal,” Park said.

Trump has returned to rhetoric he’d used during the campaign, when he called Kim a “madman playing around with nukes” and a “total nut job.”

But Trump also praised Kim at the time, saying during a Fox News interview last year that Kim’s “gotta have something going for him, because he kept control, which is amazing for a young person to do.”

The president has been fixated on the threat from Pyongyang since taking office.

Trump “rarely lets me escape the Oval Office without a question about North Korea,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in July at a national security forum in Aspen, Colo. “It is at the front of his mind.”

But Trump also has expressed frustration at the failure of previous administrations to block North Korea’s advances in ballistic missile and nuclear technology despite negotiations, sanctions, export controls, sabotage and other efforts.

President Clinton, and then President George W. Bush, engaged in two major diplomatic initiatives to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons efforts in return for aid. Both initiatives ultimately collapsed. President Obama reportedly tried cyber-sabotage.

Obama warned Trump before he took office that North Korea would be his most pressing international concern, and the new president was alarmed to learn how close Kim was to developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that could deliver a nuclear warhead to U.S. soil.

Despite all of that, Trump rarely derided Kim by name after he entered the White House.

In May, he said he’d be “honored” to meet Kim under the right circumstances.

In August, after U.S. intelligence analysts became convinced Pyongyang had miniaturized a nuclear warhead, Trump said the country would face “fire and fury” if it made more threats against the United States. But he stopped short of hurling personal insults.

Matthew Kroenig, a political scientist at Georgetown University and expert on nuclear deterrence, said Trump’s threat this week to “totally destroy” North Korea comes out of the U.S. playbook for preventing a nuclear attack.

“The point is to deter a North Korean attack, and the art of deterrence hasn’t changed,” he said in a phone interview Friday. “It is to convince your adversary that the benefit of committing an attack would be outweighed by the costs.”

“That’s what Trump was making clear — it is not in Kim Jong Un’s interest to attack the U.S.,” Kroenig said.


http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-41369329

Russia: Trump and Kim are like ‘children in a kindergarten’

  • 22 September 2017

     

Russia’s foreign minister has likened the war of words between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un to a kindergarten fight between children.

The North Korean leader earlier labelled Mr Trump “mentally deranged” and a

“dotard” after Mr Trump threatened to destroy his country.

Mr Trump responded with a tweet calling Kim Jong-un “a madman” who “will be tested like never before!”

Moscow’s Sergei Lavrov said a pause was needed, “to calm down the hotheads”.

“Yes, it’s unacceptable to silently watch North Korea’s nuclear military adventures but it is also unacceptable to unleash war on the Korean Peninsula,” he said.

He called for a political process, which he said was a key part of the United Nations Security Council process.

“Together with China we’ll continue to strive for a reasonable approach and not an emotional one like when children in a kindergarten start fighting and no-one can stop them,” he said.

US flew B-1B bombers just off coast of North Korea

The US is trying to coax the North Koreans into attacking first, and then claim they weren’t doing anything provocative – only flying in international airspace (with what we can presume were nuclear-armed bombers).

The problem with this strategy is that the North Koreans, South Koreans, Russians, Chinese and Japanese all have to be ready for these bombers to actually make a strike, and so all missiles on land, sea and submarines will be on a hair trigger.

How will they know whether a nuclear attack is under way? – they will be monitoring for any seismic  shock, and  in the midst all of this there WAS a seismic shock registered from what everyone is now calling an magnitude 3.4 earthquake at ground level close to the Punggye-ri nuclear site.  Was it in fact a North Korean nuclear test? – probably not, as it would be VERY unusual to test a nuclear bomb in the open air in your own country.  Then was it a first strike by the US? – probably not, as it wasn’t a big enough quake.  Was anyone fooled by this quake into doing something rash? – not this time, phew!

At the same time, 38north.org is reporting that North Korea’s YouTube channel (and others) has been shut down by Google for violating their Terms of Service, how? – they won’t say.  This takes a whole batch of historical videos off-line and makes it harder for analysts to do ‘before and after’ comparisons.  This is Google’s right, of course, they can host whatever they like on their own site, but shows how censorship like this from Google is totally unaccountable.  The solution is to not use Google’s “free” services – switch to https://vimeo.com or one of the others offering streaming services.  Google is poison and their stranglehold on the internet should be avoided at all costs.

 

https://www.rt.com/usa/404322-us-flew-nuclear-capable-bombers-north-korea/

US flew B-1B bombers just off coast of North Korea

US flew B-1B bombers just off coast of North Korea (PHOTOS)
The US has flown B-1B Lancer bombers escorted by F-15 fighters off North Korea’s coast venturing the “farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone,” separating the two Koreas, in the 21st century, the Pentagon’s spokesperson said.

The planes took off from Okinawa, Japan and flew over the waters east of the Korean Peninsula.

This is the farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) any U.S. fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea’s coast in the 21st century, underscoring the seriousness with which we take (North Korea’s) reckless behavior,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White.

The DMZ is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula near the 38th Parallel, separating North Korea from South Korea. It was created in 1953, following the armistice which ended the Korean War.

The B-1B Lancer strategic bombers entered service in the mid-1980s. The plane was designed specifically as a bomber for nuclear capabilities, thus having a limited capability to carry conventional bombs. Following the demise of the Soviet Union, the role of a bomber for purely nuclear war became questionable, and the Lancer fleet was grounded. The planes eventually underwent a series of modifications, which bolstered their conventional bombing capacity, but deprived them of their nuclear load.

The patrol followed a 3.4 earthquake registered in North Korea earlier on Saturday, which prompted fears of a new nuclear test. The seismic event, however, turned out to be a natural occurrence and “unlikely man-made,” according to geology and nuclear weaponry experts.

The show of force reinforced the recent threats voiced by US President Donald Trump, who vowed on Friday that Kim Jong-un “will be tested like never before,” branding the North Korean leader a “madman.”

Russian special forces repel a US-planned attack in Syria

The Saker is very good on military tactics, and when he says he is worried this situation in Syria might spiral out of control, I have to say I agree with him.

However the size of the oilfields  in eastern Syria are not big, Syria had its “Peak Oil” in 2002 at 667 kbpd and by 2011 it consumed all it produced. That left Assad with the task of finding money to import oil for the first time. At the same time, a drought was making agriculture very difficult and farmers were forced to leave their farms and head for the cities, where the high price of fuel and bread were making life very difficult. A perfect situation for an uprising, and that’s what they got.  Thus Peak Oil played an important role in destablising Syria.  The same is true of Egypt.

https://thesaker.is/russian-special-forces-repel-a-us-commanded-attack-in-syria-denounce-the-usa-and-issue-a-stark-warning/

Russian special forces repel a US-planned attack in Syria, denounce the USA and issue a stark warning

Something rather unprecedented just happened in Syria: US backed “good terrorist” forces attempted a surprise attack against Syrian government forces stationed to the north and northeast of the city of Hama.  What makes this attack unique is that it took place inside a so-called “de-escalation zone” and that it appears that one of the key goals of the attack was to encircle in a pincer-movement and subsequently capture a platoon of Russian military police officers deployed to monitor and enforce the special status of this zone.

The Russian military police forces, composed mainly of soldiers from the Caucasus region, fought against a much larger enemy force and had to call for assistance.  For the first time, at least officially, Russian special operations forces were deployed to rescue and extract their comrades.  At the same time, the Russians sent in a number of close air support aircraft who reportedly killed several hundred “good” terrorists and beat back the attack (Russian sources speak of the destruction of 850 fighters, 11 tanks, three infantry fighting vehicles, 46 armed pickup trucks, five mortars, 20 freighter trucks and 38 ammo supply points; you can see photos of the destroyed personnel and equipment here).  What also makes this event unique is the official reaction of the Russians to this event.

Head of the Main Operations Department at Russia’s General Staff Colonel General Sergei Rudskoi declared that:

“Despite agreements signed in Astana on September 15, gunmen of Jabhat al-Nusra and joining them units that don’t want to comply with the cessation of hostilities terms, launched a large-scale offensive against positions of government troops north and northeast of Hama in Idlib de-escalation zone from 8 am on September 19 (…) According to available data, the offensive was initiated by American intelligence services to stop a successful advance of government troops east of Deir ez-Zor“.

Today, other Russian officials have added a not-so-veiled threat to this accusation.  The Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov has declared that:

Russia unequivocally told the commanders of US forces in Al Udeid Airbase (Qatar) that it will not tolerate any shelling from the areas where the SDF are stationed (…)  Fire from positions in regions [controlled by the SDF] will be suppressed by all means necessary.

This is unprecedented on many levels.  First, the Russians clearly believe that this attempt to kill or capture a platoon of the Russian military police was planned by the United States.  The fact that they are making this accusation officially shows the degree of irritation felt by the Russians about the duplicity of the Americans.  Second, this is the first time, at least to my knowledge, that Russian Spetsnaz forces had to be sent in to rescue a surrounded Russian subunit.  All Spetsnaz operators survived, but three of them were wounded in the operation (the Russians are not saying how badly).  The close air support by very low flying SU-25 aircraft was obviously coordinated by Spetsnaz forward air controllers and probably saved the day.  In other words, this was a close call and things could have ended much more badly (just imagine what the Takfiri crazies would have done, on video, to any captured Russian serviceman!).  Finally, a US-organized attack on what was supposed to be a “de-confliction” zone combined with an attempt to capture Russian soldiers raises the bar for American duplicity to a totally new level.

The big question now is “do the Russians mean it?” or are they just whining with real determination to hit back if needed.

There are a couple of problems here.  First, objectively, the Russian contingent in Syria is a tiny one if compared to the immense power of CENTCOM, NATO and the ever-present Israelis.  Not only that, but in any US-Russian confrontation, Russia as a country is objectively the weaker side by any measure except a full-out nuclear exchange.  So the Russians are not in a position of force.  Furthermore, for historical and cultural reasons, Russians are much more concerned by the initiation of any incident which could lead to all-out war than the Americans who always fight their wars in somebody else’s country. This might seem paradoxical, but the Russians fear war but they are ready for it.  In contrast to the Russians, the Americans don’t fear war, but neither are they ready for it.  In practical terms this means that an American miscalculation could very well lead to a Russian military response which would stun the Americans and force them to enter an escalatory spiral which nobody would control.

Remember how Hillary promised that she would unilaterally impose a so-called “no-fly” zone over Syria?  She promised not only to deploy US aircraft above Russian forces in Syria, but she also promised that she would force the Russian Aerospace forces out of the Syrian skies.  Thank God, this crazy witch was not elected, but it appears that folks with the same arrogant and,frankly, completely irresponsible point of view are now back in power under Trump.

My fear now is that the incompetent, arrogant, not too bright and generally ignorant commanders at the Pentagon and the CIA will simply ignore clear warning signs coming from the Russians, including the public announcement that the Kremlin has given the authority to use force to protect Russian personnel to the local Russian commanders in Syria.  In plain English, this means that if they are attacked the Russians in Syria do not need to consult with Moscow before using force to protect themselves.  By the way, such rules of engagement are pretty common, there is nothing earth shattering here, but the fact that they were made public is, again, a message to the AngloZionist and the “good” terrorist they use to try to conquer Syria.

This time around we (the world) were lucky.  The Syrians fought hard and the “good” terrorists were probably surprised by the ruthless determination of the Russian military police forces (in reality, mostly Chechen special forces) and of the Spetsnaz operators.  It is one thing to fight Syrian conscripts, quite another to deal with these hardened warriors.  But the next time around the outcome could be different.

The bigger picture is also one which gives me a great deal of concern.  The Syrians, with Iranian, Hezbollah and Russian help, have freed Deir ez-Zor and have crossed the Euphrates river and are moving further East.  In plain English this means that the US and Daesh have lost the war and that the last region of Syrian from which the AngloZionists can hope to partition the country (their current “plan B”) and establish a permanent US military presence is now threatened by the Syrian advance.  The distance between the US forces currently deployed in northeastern Syria and Syrian, Iranian, Hezbollah and Russian forces is becoming shorter and shorter each day.  I can just imagine how, say, Iranian or Hezbollah forces which are already “smelling” the nearby presence of US forces are drooling with hunger for the moment they will finally be able to get their hands on their old and most hated foe.  I feel sincerely sorry for the first US unit to make contact with the Iranians or Hezbollah forces.

Right now the Americans are hiding behind the Kurds, but sooner or later the Iranians or Hezbollah will find them.  As for the Kurds, their situation in Syria is precarious, to put it mildly: they are surrounded on all sides by the Turks, the Syrians and the Iranians and their only more or less stable zone of control is in Iraq.  The Americans understand that perfectly, hence their desperate attempts to stop the Syrians.

This is a very dangerous situation: even though CENTCOM and NATO are by far the “biggest guys on the block”, in Syria the Americans are cornered, their corner is shrinking fast and it remains entirely unclear how this process can be stopped.  Hence the attack on the de-confliction zone we just witnessed.

I hope that eventually the Americans will do what they did in al-Taif and simply pack, declare victory and leave.  That would be the only rational thing to do.  But after listening to Trump at the UN I don’t get the feeling that being rational is at the top of the US priority list.  That’s all rather frightening.

N. Korea threatens H-bomb test

The level of childishness being displayed by Trump is getting him bad press around the world.  This sort of damage is lasting.  One can only imagine the level of bullying going on behind closed doors.

https://www.rt.com/news/404237-us-japan-drills-korea-threat/

US nuclear carrier conducts naval drills with Japan as N. Korea threatens H-bomb test

US nuclear carrier conducts naval drills with Japan as N. Korea threatens H-bomb test
The 100,000-ton US Navy supercarrier ‘Ronald Reagan’ has conducted drills with Japanese warships south of the Korean Peninsula, Japan’s military said. Pyongyang, meanwhile, has threatened a further “hydrogen bomb test” over the Pacific.

The Japan Maritime Self Defense Force said in a statement on Friday that the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarrier ‘Ronald Reagan,’ based in the Japanese town of Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, and its escort ships have been holding drills with Japanese Navy vessels in waters south and west of Japan’s main islands since September 11. The strike group is also set to stage a separate drill with the South Korean Navy in October, the Defense Ministry added.

The large-scale drill will involve three Japanese warships, including two destroyers and one of the country’s two biggest helicopter carriers, and will run until the end of the month.

On Friday, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho said that Pyongyang is considering testing a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean. The move is said to be in response to Washington stepping up economic sanctions against North Korea.

“It could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific,” Ri said, as quoted by South Korean agency Yonhap.

The suggestion came as Ri was asked to clarify the latest statement by Kim Jong-un, in which the North Korean leader vowed revenge against US President Donald Trump for insulting him and his country “in front of the eyes of the world” by threatening “to destroy” North Korea.

In a statement issued by North Korean state-run agency KCNA on Friday, Kim said he “will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding highest level of hardline countermeasure in history,” while promising that the US will “pay dearly” for Trump’s remarks at the UN General Assembly.

Kim then said that “whatever Trump might have expected, he will face results beyond his expectation.” 

In his remarks at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if forced to defend the US or its allies. Trump added fuel to the fire by calling Kim a “rocket man” on a “suicide mission for himself.” 

Pyongyang slammed Trump’s remarks, likening his threat to “the sound of a dog barking.”

Trump’s statement also came under fire from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“I’m against such threats,” Merkel said on Wednesday, urging the US leader to focus on diplomatic ways of resolving the unraveling crisis while describing a military solution as “totally inappropriate.”

German criticism apparently fell on deaf ears, with Trump taking to Twitter on Friday again to say that Kim Jong-un is “obviously a madman.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Friday that while tensions with North Korea were mounting, diplomatic efforts would nonetheless continue.

“We are quite challenged but our diplomatic efforts continue unabated,” Tillerson said in an interview with ABC. “We have put in place the strongest economic sanctions ever to have been assembled against Kim Jong-un,” he added. “So, he is being tested with the sanctions, voices from every corner of the world,” Tillerson concluded.

Russia has meanwhile insisted that diplomatic negotiations may be the only way to resolve the tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Any other scenario could lead to “very undesirable and even catastrophic consequences,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted on Friday. “Moscow is still calling all concerned parties for restraint,” Peskov added.

On September 3, Pyongyang claimed to have carried out its first H-bomb test, hailing it as a “perfect success” and a “meaningful” step further into the development of the nuclear program. State media reported at the time that it allegedly could be mounted on an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), although this capability has been disputed outside North Korea.

US calls for ‘strong & swift’ UNSC action on Myanmar

Here it comes. If you were wondering why there has been so much attention paid to Myanmar, when we hear nothing about the plight of Bangladesh which is in a much worse condition due to floods and extreme poverty, it is because the US wants to put sanctions on Myanmar as punishment for its closeness to China and involvement in China’s One Belt One Road initiative.  The US doesn’t care about the human rights of the Rohingyas anymore than it cares about the human rights of Afghans.  What it DOES care about is poking China in the eye.

https://www.rt.com/usa/404004-myanmar-burma-pence-un-action-rodigya/

More to come? US calls for ‘strong & swift’ UNSC action to end Myanmar crisis

More to come? US calls for ‘strong & swift’ UNSC action to end Myanmar crisis
US Vice President Mike Pence has called on the UN Security Council to take action to resolve the crisis in Myanmar, which led to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fleeing their homes in recent weeks.

“The United States renews our call on Burma’s security forces to end their violence immediately and support diplomatic efforts for a long-term solution,” Pence told the UN Security Council Wednesday, using the old colonial name for the country.

“President Trump and I also call on this Security Council and the United Nations to take strong and swift action to bring this crisis to an end and give hope and help to the Rohingya people in their hour of need,” he added.

The vice president did not specify what action the US is calling for, but last time Washington used the words “strong and swift” actions was in relation to Venezuela in July. Sanctions against the country’s leadership followed.

Pence also told the UNSC that Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi assured US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday that returning refugees have nothing to fear.

Myanmar’s military unleashed a crackdown on Rohingya settlements following an attack carried out by a group of Rohingya militants on a number of police posts in northern Rakhine on August 25.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called the crackdown “clearly disproportionate” and “textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” as it led to around 400,000 Rohingya people fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh, according to human rights groups.

Last week, Amnesty International released satellite images which the group says show Rohingya villages set ablaze. The organization has attributed blame to Myanmar’s security forces, as well as “vigilante mobs,” saying it was done to drive the people out.

“When the military came, they started shooting at people who got very scared and started running. I saw the military shoot many people and kill two young boys. They used weapons to burn our houses. There used to be 900 houses in our village, now only 80 are left. There is no-one left to even bury the bodies,” Amnesty cited one unnamed 48-year-old man, saying his village was attacked on September 8.

The human rights group said the scale of destruction could not be independently verified due to governmental restrictions on outside access to the area.

On Tuesday, Aung San Suu Kyi broke weeks of silence on allegations of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya population and delivered a speech in which she claimed that the majority of Rohingya villages had not been affected by violence. She refrained from criticizing the military, but said it had been instructed to exercise restraint and avoid “collateral damage” in its pursuit of insurgents.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who received Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, has drawn worldwide admiration for her long fight against military rule. Two years ago, her party had a landslide victory in Myanmar’s elections, which made her head of the country’s government. It is not clear to what extent she controls the military’s actions, however.

Rohingya Muslims have been largely treated as outsiders in the Buddhist-majority Myanmar. Most Rohingya were denied citizenship, leaving them stateless in a country where they were born.

Korea Solution Needs US to Sign a Peace Treaty

I couldn’t have put it better myself.  With Russia and China saying that the US needs to stop its provocative “exercises”, and Germany saying that a P5+1 deal is the way to go, it is clear that there is a lot of diplomacy as yet unexplored.  There is no rush needed about this.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/47837.htm

Korea Solution Needs US to Sign a Peace Treaty

By Finian Cunninham

September 19, 2017

Germany and France have backed the stance of Russia and China for negotiations to avert the Korea crisis. South Korea and Japan also seem to be amenable to recent calls by Russian President Vladimir Putin for exclusively diplomatic efforts. Any other option in the alarming standoff with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program portends disaster.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has endorsed the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran as a model for possible negotiations.

That puts the United States on the margin of international consensus, with its repeated threats to use military force as an option against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea).

Last week, following another North Korean ballistic missile test that overflew Japan, US President Donald Trump’s top national security adviser reiterated Washington’s self-declared right to use pre-emptive military force, tacitly including the deployment of nuclear weapons.

«For those who have been commenting on a lack of a military option, there is a military option», said General HR McMaster to reporters in Washington.

While McMaster and President Trump, as well as Pentagon chief James Mattis, have said on other occasions that the US would prefer to seek a diplomatic solution to the Korea crisis, such purported preferences do not inspire confidence.

For a start, the whole doctrine of «pre-emptive» or «preventive» war is a violation of international law, if not outrightly criminal. The concept was earlier formulated by Nazi Germany as a pretext for aggression, and was duly criminalized at the Nuremberg Trials. Today, the United States stands alone as the only nation to invoke the self-declared prerogative to use military violence in «self-defense».

Also, when Washington talks about a «diplomatic solution» what it is referring to is a unilateral «denuclearization» by North Korea. There is absolutely no indication from the US that it reciprocates a responsibility to stand down its «overwhelming» military power aimed at the Korean Peninsula. Thus, what Washington means by «peace» is a one-sided surrender by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

For this reason, international calls for diplomacy and negotiations have to be underpinned by a proper foundational premise.

The proper starting point is for the US to finally sign a full peace treaty with North Korea to mark the definitive end of the Korean War. It seems almost bizarre that 64 years after the end of that war (1950-53), the US refuses to commit to a peace treaty. The matter is hardly permitted into public discourse by the US government and Western news media. Even though the issue is key to finding a peaceful solution.

The absence of a binding peace settlement means that, technically, the US and North Korea still view each other at being in a state of war. This gives profound substance to North Korea’s existential fears over the US continually conducting «war games» around the peninsula.

Former US President Jimmy Carter and former US ambassador to South Korea James Laney have both recognized the fundamental onus on Washington of now, at last, having to abide by international norms towards Korea.

The US-based Campaign to End the Korean War quotes ambassador Laney as saying: «One of the things that have bedeviled all talks until now is the unresolved status of the Korean War. A peace treaty would provide a baseline for relationships, eliminating the question of the other’s legitimacy and its right to exist. Absent such a peace treaty, every dispute presents afresh the question of the other side’s legitimacy. Only with a treaty in place will both sides be relieved of the political demand to see each move as conferring approval or not.»

Nevertheless, despite these reasonable voices from within the US, the dominant position of Washington is one of strong-arming North Korea  to capitulate to American demands – or face the threat of catastrophic military force.

Such an American position is totally unacceptable to international norms. Russia, China and Europe must take a firm stand and let Washington know in no uncertain terms that its unilateralism is unacceptable, and at worst, a reckless collision course for a nuclear war.

Diplomats from Russia and China last week both condemned US threats of violence against North Korea, as well as censuring Pyongyang for its missile tests.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, pointed out that the latest UN resolution 2375 voted on September 11 explicitly calls on all parties, including the United States, to re-engage in multilateral talks. Those talks involving North Korea were abandoned during the GW Bush administration more than a decade ago. How is that dereliction of diplomacy by Washington even remotely acceptable?

But, again, the push for diplomacy and negotiations must be founded on a proper and viable premise.

This is where German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s proposal to pursue a P5+1 formula comes unstuck. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed in July 2015 between the US, Russia, China, Europe and Iran has been continually undermined by the Trump administration.

Iran committed to stringent limits on its nuclear energy program in return for sanctions relief. The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has filed seven reports since January 2016 confirming Iran’s full compliance with the JCPOA.

Yet, the Trump administration is threatening to scrap its participation in the internationally binding nuclear accord with Iran. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has made the wholly irrational claim that Iran’s «technical compliance» with the JCPOA is not enough. He and US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, have said that Iran «is not living up to the spirit of the deal». Absurdly, Washington is claiming that Iran’s support for the Syrian state in its war to defeat US-backed terror groups is grounds for resiling from the JCPOA.

President Trump has called it the «worst deal ever». He said that a White House review due next month may finally signal the US walking away from it. If that happens, Washington will be able to reimpose sanctions on Iran, and extend those sanctions to Europe, Russia and China for doing legitimate business with the Islamic Republic.

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Clearly, the US rulers cannot be trusted. If they cannot comply with obligations under an international legal agreement, which has been ratified by the UN Security Council, then any residual trust in US diplomacy is completely shattered.

North Korea has no doubt taken note of the US bad faith over Iran. Pyongyang has already pointed to the grim fate of Iraq and Libya which were invaded and destroyed by the US when it became evident neither possessed chemical or nuclear weapons.

Western corporate news media tend to portray North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as «crazy». The reality is that Kim would be crazy if he were to somehow surrender the country’s nuclear weapons under prevailing conditions.

Washington’s hints at diplomacy are threadbare and have no credibility. Any proposed negotiations to genuinely resolve the Korean crisis must start with the US signing a peace treaty with North Korea and foreswearing the use of any military force. Any other format is bereft of confidence building, as the Iranian nuclear deal is unfortunately showing.

A declaration by the US that the Korean War is over is a bare minimum requirement in order to begin peace and security talks. Even then it still not failsafe given Washington’s perfidy.

However, anything less than a peace treaty signed by the US is not feasible to end the spiral of conflict over Korea.

Incredible as it seems, the demand on the US is to simply abide by international law and to stop using aggression as a foreign policy. How damning is that.

Russia’s Mass Surveillance System

This is very likely a tool to combat Russia’s own jihadists and US hacking, but nevertheless is antithetical to users internet privacy in Russia.  It all depends on how widely the data is used and for what reason.

It can be circumvented in the same way as in the west, by using a VPN service so that ISPs only see an encrypted traffic stream.  End-to-end encryption of messages using something like GPG4USB would still be possible, but using it might cause red flags to be raised.

Ultimately, if you want to the infrastructure of the internet, you are going to have to put up with this.  Is it possible to create another internet where this doesn’t happen? Yes, but … Smartphones are quite capable of running software to create a wireless mesh network, where any phone can be used to relay from one IP address to another, so in an area where there are lots of smartphones (like a city) the mesh would allow messaging between any 2 users.  Assuming enough phones are also paying for internet access, they could relay for everyone else.  There is no obvious software solution at the moment.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-09-19/wikileaks-publishes-spy-files-russia-detailing-russias-mass-surveillance-system

Wikileaks Publishes “Spy Files Russia” Detailing Russia’s Mass Surveillance System

Perhaps in an attempt to refute recurring allegations that it has traditionally focused on exposing only US state secrets, if not being an outright covert and subversive Moscow front, today Wikileaks released a new cache of documents which it claims detail surveillance apparatus used by the Russian state to spy on Internet and mobile users. It’s the first time the organization has leaked material directly pertaining to the Russian state.

The full datadump can be found here.

In its summary of the cache of mostly Russian-language documents, Wikileaks claims they show how a long-established Russian company which supplies software to telcos is also installing infrastructure – with the government’s blessing – that enables Russian state agencies to tap into, search and spy on citizens’ digital activity, suggesting a similar state-funded mass surveillance program to the one utilized by the U.S.’s NSA or by GCHQ in the U.K. (both of which were detailed in the 2013 Snowden disclosures).

And speaking of, shortly following the publication, another famous whistleblower, one also exiled and currently residing in Russia, Edward Snowden tweeted “Plot twist: @Wikileaks publishes details on Russia’s increasingly oppressive internet surveillance industry.”

To be sure, arguments have already broken out on Twitter suggesting that Wikileaks/Assange is trying to deflect from charges that it is a front for the Kremlin by finally dumping “something” on Russia. (see this tweet comment thread as one example). Making matters more complicated, it’s not possible at this point to verify the value or veracity of the latest Wikileaks document release.

The documents published today by Wikileaks (there are just 34 “base documents” in this leak) relate to a St. Petersburg-based company, called Peter-Service, which it claims is a contractor for Russian state surveillance. According to Tech Crunch, the company was set up in 1992 to provide billing solutions before going on to become a major supplier of software to the mobile telecoms industry.

Wikileaks writes:

The technologies developed and deployed by PETER-SERVICE today go far beyond the classical billing process and extend into the realms of surveillance and control. Although compliance to the strict surveillance laws is mandatory in Russia, rather than being forced to comply PETER-SERVICE appears to be quite actively pursuing partnership and commercial opportunities with the state intelligence apparatus.

As a matter of fact PETER-SERVICE is uniquely placed as a surveillance partner due to the remarkable visibility their products provide into the data of Russian subscribers of mobile operators, which expose to PETER-SERVICE valuable metadata, including phone and message records, device identifiers (IMEI, MAC addresses), network identifiers (IP addresses), cell tower information and much more. This enriched and aggregated metadata is of course of interest to Russian authorities, whose access became a core component of the system architecture.

One of Wikileaks’ media partners for the release, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica reports that the documents cover “an extended timespan from 2007 to June 2015”, and describes the contents as “extremely technical”. It also caveats that the documents do not mention Russia’s spy agency, the FSB, but rather “speak only of state agencies”, a formula it asserts “certainly includes law enforcement, who use metadata for legal interception”. It also says the documents do “not clarify what other state apparatus accesses those data through the solution of the St. Petersburg company”.

Wikileaks says that under Russia law operators must maintain a Data Retention System (DRS), which can store data for up to three years. La Repubblica reports that Peter-Service’s DRS stores telephone traffic data and “allows Russian state agencies to query the database of all stored data in search of information” — which it specifies can include calls made by a certain telephone company’s customer; payment systems used; the cell phone number to which a user is calling.

“The manuals published by WikiLeaks contain the images of interfaces that allow you to search within these huge data fields, so access is simple and intuitive,” it adds.

Some technical details:

  • According to Wikileaks, Peter-Service’s DRS solution can handle 500,000,000 connections per day in one cluster. While the claimed average search time for subscriber related-records from a single day is ten seconds. “State intelligence authorities use the Protocol 538 adapter built into the DRS to access stored information,” it adds.
  • Peter-Service has also apparently developed a tool called TDM (Traffic Data Mart) — which allows the database to be queried to determine “where users’ data traffic is stored in order to understand visited sites, forums, social media”, as well as how much time is spent on a certain site and the electronic device used to access it.
  • Wikileaks describes TDM as “a system that records and monitors IP traffic for all mobile devices registered with the operator”,  and says it maintains a list of categorized domain names — “which cover all areas of interest for the state. These categories include blacklisted sites, criminal sites, blogs, webmail, weapons, botnet, narcotics, betting, aggression, racism, terrorism and many more”.
  • “Based on the collected information the system allows the creation of reports for subscriber devices (identified by IMEI/TAC, brand, model) for a specified time range: Top categories by volume, top sites by volume, top sites by time spent, protocol usage (browsing, mail, telephony, bittorrent) and traffic/time distribution,” it adds.

Wikileaks points to a 2013 Peter-Service slideshow presentation (it says this also appears to be publicly available on the company’s website), which it claims is targeted not at telco customers but at state entities such as Russia’s FSB and Interior Ministry (despite this document apparently being in the public domain) — in which the company focuses on a new product, called DPI*GRID; which it says is a hardware device for Deep Packet Inspection that takes the form of “black boxes” apparently able to handle 10Gb/s traffic per unit.

Wikileaks adds that “the national providers are aggregating Internet traffic in their infrastructure and are redirecting/duplicating the full stream to DPI*GRID units. The units inspect and analyse traffic (the presentation does not describe that process in much detail); the resulting metadata and extracted information are collected in a database for further investigation. A similar, yet smaller solution called MDH/DRS is available for regional providers who send aggregated IP traffic via a 10Gb/s connection to MDH for processing.”

Wikileaks also makes a point of noting that the presentation was written “just a few months after Edward Snowden disclosed the NSA mass surveillance program and its cooperation with private U.S. IT-corporations such as Google and Facebook”.

“Drawing specifically on the NSA Prism program, the presentation offers law enforcement, intelligence and other interested parties, to join an alliance in order to establish equivalent data-mining operations in Russia,” it adds — sticking its boot firmly back into U.S. government mass surveillance programs.

The World Is Creeping Toward De-Dollarization

https://mises.org/blog/world-creeping-toward-de-dollarization

The World Is Creeping Toward De-Dollarization

19 Sept 2017

The issue of when a global reserve currency begins or ends is not an exact science. There are no press releases announcing it, and neither are there big international conferences that end with the signing of treaties and a photo shoot. Nevertheless we can say with confidence that the reign of every world reserve currency has to come to and end at some point in time. During a changeover from one global currency to another, gold (and to a lesser extent silver) has always played a decisive role. Central banks and governments have long been aware that the dollar has a sell-by date as a reserve currency. But it has taken until now for the subject to be discussed openly. The fact that the issue has been on the radar of a powerful bank like JP Morgan for at least five years, should give one pause. Questions regarding the global reserve currency are not exactly discussed on CNBC every day. Most mainstream economists avoid the topic like the plague. The issue is too politically charged. However, that doesn’t make it any less important for investors to look for answers. On the contrary. The following questions need to be asked: What indications are there that the world is turning its back on the US dollar? And what are the clues that gold’s role could be strengthened in a new system?

The mechanism underlying today’s “dollar standard” is widely known and the term “petrodollar” describes it well. This system is based on an informal agreement the US and Saudi Arabia arrived at in the mid-1970s. The result of this deal: Oil, and consequently all other important commodities, is traded in US dollars — and only in US dollars. Oil producers then “recycle” these “petrodollars” into US treasuries. This circular flow of dollars has enabled the US to pile up a towering mountain of debt of nearly $20 trillion — without having to worry about its own financial stability. At least, until now.

For a long time the basis on which this global currency system rests was poorly documented. Finally, Bloomberg published a comprehensive article in May 2016, which provided detailed confirmation of the agreement that was hitherto only known as a rumor. The fact that this article is published now also represents a subtle clue that there are simmering shifts in the global currency system.

The trend becomes ever more tangible and can be described by the following term: de-dollarization. The world is looking for alternatives to the dollar — and finds them more and more often. At the same time the big oil producers and the largest exporters have stopped accumulating US debt securities. In one sentence: Since 1973 the dollar standard has been based on “usage demand” for dollars — they were needed. But when China and Russia find alternatives for their bilateral trading activity, they need fewer dollars. The same applies to European countries which have adopted the euro since 1999.

There have been many attempts by various nations to undermine the dollar’s preeminence in recent decades. Some were nipped in the bud by US interventions — such as the plan of Iraq’s former dictator Saddam Hussein to sell oil for euros. Or the rumored plan of Libya’s eccentric ruler Muammar al-Gaddafi to issue a pan-African gold currency.

Others are less well known, but are indeed continuing to “bubble” below the surface: For example, since 2008, an agreement exists between Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar which provides for the creation of a monetary union. The planned new currency is nicknamed — rather unimaginatively — the “gulfo.” “The project is inspired by the European currency union, which is seen as a great success in the Arab world,” according to an article by Telegraph journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. He inter alia quotes Nahed Taher, the CEO of Bahrain Gulf One Investment Bank: “The US dollar has failed. We need to delink from it.” However, it appears the plan has been put on hold in recent years. As recently as mid-2013 a statement was issued according to which the common currency was going to be put in place “by 2015 at the latest.” Today it is no longer even talked about. Moreover, other potential members such as the United Arab Emirates or Oman have so far failed to join the club. One should nevertheless keep an eye on developments in the Gulf.

A clear signal that something is afoot would be the abolition of the Saudi riyal’s peg to the US dollar. As recently as April of this year economist Nasser Saeedi advised Middle Eastern countries to prepare for a “new normal” — and specifically to review the dollar pegs of their currencies: “By 2025 it is clear that the center of global economic geography is very much in Asia. What we’ve been living in over the past two decades is a very big shift in the political, economic, and financial geography.”

While the role of oil-producing countries (and particularly Saudi Arabia) shouldn’t be underestimated, at present the driving forces with regard to de-dollarization are primarily Moscow and Beijing. We want to take a closer look at this process.

There exist numerous political statements in this context which leave no room for doubt. The Russians and Chinese are quite open about their views regarding the role of gold in the current phase of the transition. Thus, Russian prime minister Dimitri Medvedev, at the time president of Russia, held a gold coin up to a camera on occasion of the 2008 G8 meeting in Aquila in Italy. Medvedev said that debates over the reserve currency question had become a permanent fixture of the meetings of government leaders.

Almost ten years later, the topic of currencies and gold is on the Sino-Russian agenda again. In March, Russia’s central bank opened its first office in Beijing. Russia is preparing to place its first renminbi-denominated government bond. Both sides have intensified efforts in recent years to settle bilateral trade not in US dollars, but in rubles and yuan. Gold is considered important by both countries.

The gradual move away from the USD to a multi-polar monetary order has several important effects, which only make sense when viewed through this lens. Contrary to what is asserted in most mainstream reports, oil-producing countries are not so much interested in a much higher oil price in USD terms, but rather in competition for market share. They are increasingly able to choose in which currencies they want to trade. The most important effect has become evident since 2014: two of the largest holders of US treasuries (China and Saudi Arabia) have abandoned their support of Washington. On the other hand, oil producers have no interest in recycling their revenues as “petrodollars.”

The process of moving away from the dollar — prepared by Europe and triggered by China and Russia — can no longer be stopped. And as a “supra-national” reserve asset, gold plays an important role in it.

US Navy sacks more commanders

Whatever else transpires, the Captains of ships at sea must always keep a good watch, or face the sack. Over-worked and no time to practice keeping watch – signs of an over-stretched empire struggling to stay on top of things. These warships were probably nuclear-armed, and were certainly linked in by AEGIS with those that are, and yet couldn’t keep a watch going in busy international waters.

https://www.rt.com/usa/403735-warship-collisions-commanders-fired-fitzgerald-mccain/
US Navy sacks more commanders after deadly warship collisions
18 Sep, 2017

The US Navy has dismissed an admiral and a captain in connection with two deadly accidents where US warships collided with commercial vessels in the Pacific. This comes less than a month after the Navy fired the commander of the Seventh Fleet.

Rear Admiral Charles Williams, commander of Task Force 70, and Captain Jeffrey Bennett, commander of Destroyer Squadron 15, were fired by Seventh Fleet commander Vice Admiral Phil Sawyer, the Navy said Monday. “Both reliefs were due to a loss of confidence in their ability to command.”

The previous Seventh Fleet Commander, Joseph Aucoin, was dismissed on August 23, with Navy citing the same “loss of confidence” reasoning. Aucoin was scheduled to retire in September.

Collisions involving USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain this summer in Asia Pacific killed a total of 17 US sailors. Even though investigations into both incidents are still ongoing, the Navy has already fired the Fitzgerald’s captain and other sailors after poor seamanship and flaws in keeping watch were found to have contributed to its collision.

“Clearly at some point, the bridge team lost situational awareness,” Admiral William F. Moran, the vice chief of naval operations, told reporters in August.

The Fitzgerald collided with a container ship off the coast of Japan in June, killing seven American sailors. Two months later, the McCain, another guided-missile destroyer, collided with a commercial oil tanker east of Singapore. Ten sailors were killed in the incident. The collision tore a gaping hole in the McCain’s left rear hull and flooded adjacent compartments, including crew berths, machinery and communication rooms.

“To put that in perspective, these heartbreaking casualties are more than the number of [American] service members that we have lost in the Afghanistan war zone in the 2017,” Representative Joe Courtney (D-Connecticut) said at a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing on September 8, as lawmakers demanded answers as to why US warships were involved in more accidents this year than in any year over the past two decades.

At the hearing, Admiral Moran acknowledged that the US Navy compromised its standards in order to meet high operational demands.

Navy commanders have approved numerous waivers to expiring certifications of standards, such as seamanship, Moran told the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.

“We have allowed standards to drop as the number of certifications has grown,” Moran said, although he refused to specifically address the Fitzgerald and McCain incidents, citing ongoing investigations.

The Navy is “shocked” by the collisions, and is carrying out a comprehensive review to fix the disturbing trend, the vice chief of naval operations told lawmakers.

This year, there were two other accidents involving US warships in the Asia Pacific, but no injuries were reported.

Citing the incidents, the Navy briefly suspended operations of all US fleets in late August.

“While each of these four incidents is unique, they cannot be viewed in isolation,” Admiral Scott Swift said.

The latest dismissals in the Navy also come days before another scheduled Congressional hearing – this time at the Senate Armed Services Committee. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson and Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer are expected to testify alongside the director of Defense Capabilities and Management at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) John H. Pendleton, who also testified with Admiral Moran earlier this month on shortcomings in the training of Navy crews.

“The high operational tempo of ships homeported overseas had resulted in what Navy personnel called a ‘train on the margins’ approach, a shorthand way to say there was no dedicated training time set aside for the ships so crews trained while underway or in the limited time between underway periods,” Pendleton told lawmakers.