China speaks on real war

Global Times, the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece, is often used to speak on behalf of the Government on sensitive topics. This piece is saying that if the US strikes North Korea first, China will prevent them (presumably by attacking the US B-1 bombers), whereas if North Korea strikes Guam first, they will not intervene.

Meanwhile Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, says the US-Alliance (ANZUS Treaty) means that if Australia is attacked the US will come to Australia’s aid. This is incorrect as the Treaty only requires there to be consultations, and who knows what Trump would do under such circumstances? Turnbull has not yet got the Australian Government’s permission to go to war, so presumably Australia has been encouraged to say this by a phone call from VP Pence, obedient little Australia (militarily) immediately obeys.


Global Times10 August 2017

http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1060791.shtml

Reckless game over the Korean Peninsula runs risk of real war

2017/8/10

The US and North Korea have both ramped up their threatening rhetoric. The Pentagon has prepared plans for B-1B strategic bombers to make preemptive strikes on North Korea’s missile sites. US Secretary of Defense James Mattis issued an ultimatum to North Korea on Wednesday to “cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and destruction of its people.”

Meanwhile, North Korea issued plans to fire four intermediate-range missiles to land 30-40 kilometers from Guam and claimed it would finalize the plan by mid-August.

Some people in Guam have already expressed panic for the first time after the end of the Cold War. The US has already got the worst of the confrontation with North Korea.

Many people believe the possibility of war is very low. If war really breaks out, the US can hardly reap any strategic harvest and North Korea will face unprecedented risks. North Korea aims to propel the US to negotiate with it, while the US wants to put North Korea in check. Neither can achieve its goal, so they compete to escalate tensions, but neither wants to take the initiative to launch a war.

The real danger is that such a reckless game may lead to miscalculations and a strategic “war.” That is to say, neither Washington nor Pyongyang really wants war, but a war could break out anyway as they do not have the experience of putting such an extreme game under control.

In the near future, it would be highly sensitive if US B-1B fighter jets fly over the Korean Peninsula or North Korea launches missiles in the direction of Guam. Both sides would upgrade their alert to the highest level. The uncertainty in the Korean Peninsula is growing.

Beijing is not able to persuade Washington or Pyongyang to back down at this time. It needs to make clear its stance to all sides and make them understand that when their actions jeopardize China’s interests, China will respond with a firm hand.

China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten US soil first and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral. If the US and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.

China opposes both nuclear proliferation and war in the Korean Peninsula. It will not encourage any side to stir up military conflict, and will firmly resist any side which wants to change the status quo of the areas where China’s interests are concerned. It is hoped that both Washington and Pyongyang can exercise restraint. The Korean Peninsula is where the strategic interests of all sides converge, and no side should try to be the absolute dominator of the region.

… and the inevitable NK response

The meaning behind this announcement is not absolutely clear, but what I think it means is they will fire 4 missiles that will land north, east, south, and west of the island of Guam, each about 30 to 40 Km away from the island, in international waters – an “enveloping fire”. It doesn’t say they will be armed with nukes, but who knows? In any case, they will have to be shot down, presumably with THAAD missiles, which target the incoming missiles at high altitude (above the atmosphere).

This will pose a problem for the US as handling 4 simultaneously could prove difficult, certainly harder than the stage-managed tests done previously, and the humiliation if one actually arrives intact would be hard for the Pentagon to live down . It also uses up 4 THAAD missiles, which are expensive and hard to keep the supply up.

So don’t laugh just yet.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-08-09/furious-north-korea-mocks-trump-vows-complete-plan-nuke-guam

“Furious” North Korea Threatens “Simultaneous Strike” On Guam By Mid-August


Tyler Durden
Aug 9, 2017

So much for Rex Tillerson’s tepid attempt to de-escalate Trump’s “fire and fury” statement.

Moments ago, the state run-KCNA news agency issued a statement in which it cited a commander of the Korean People’s Army according to whom President Donald Trump’s threat was a “load of nonsense,” it failed to grasp the “grave situation,” and said that “sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him,” referring to Trump’s comments about unleashing “fire and fury.”

Reaffirming its intentions to strike Guam, N. Korea said it is “seriously examining the plan for an enveloping strike at Guam through simultaneous fire of four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range strategic ballistic rockets in order to interdict the enemy forces on major military bases on Guam and to signal a crucial warning to the U.S.” Noting that it is getting exhausted and angry with Trump’s “load of nonsense”, the General said that Trump’s threats are “extremely getting on the nerves of the infuriated Hwasong artillerymen of the KPA.”

“The KPA Strategic Force will finally complete the plan until mid August and report it to the commander-in-chief of the DPRK nuclear force and wait for his order” and N. Korea will closely watch U.S. “speech and behavior.”

Turning the tables on Trump’s statement that only harsh language can work on Kim Jong Un, N.Korea responded that “sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him.”

The North Korean statement also says the military action its army “is about to take” will be effective for restraining America’s “frantic moves” in and near the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. Hinting that Pyongyang will continue planning an attack, the General adds that “the military action the KPA is about to take will be an effective remedy for restraining the frantic moves of the U.S. in the southern part of the Korean peninsula and its vicinity. ”

It said that North Korea will complete a plan by mid-August for the “historic enveloping fire at Guam,” convey it to the commander in chief of its nuclear force and then “wait for his order.” North Korea says it will “keep closely watching the speech and behavior of the U.S.” The army General explains that “this unprecedented step is to give stronger confidence in certain victory and courage to the Korean people and help them witness the wretched plight of the U.S. imperialists.”

And, in a surprising tangent, the statement goes so far as to give details of the flight plan its ICBMs will take, which will be right above Japan, hardly a detail that Tokyo will be excited about:

The Hwasong-12 rockets to be launched by the KPA will cross the sky above Shimane, Hiroshima and Koichi Prefectures of Japan. They will fly 3 356.7 km for 1 065 seconds and hit the waters 30 to 40 km away from Guam.

Finally, the KPA Strategic Force said it will finally complete the Guam attack plan by mid-August, so it may be the case that North Korea will launch one if not more Hwasong-12 rockets in the coming weeks.

* * *

The full KCNA statement is below:

http://kcna.kp/kcna.user.article.retrieveNewsViewInfoList.kcmsf [Warning: beware malware!]

Pyongyang, August 10 (KCNA)

General Kim Rak Gyom, commander of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army, released the following statement on August 9:

As already clarified, the Strategic Force of the KPA is seriously examining the plan for an enveloping strike at Guam through simultaneous fire of four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range strategic ballistic rockets in order to interdict the enemy forces on major military bases on Guam and to signal a crucial warning to the U.S.

On Tuesday, the KPA Strategic Force through a statement of its spokesman fully warned the U.S. against its all-round sanctions on the DPRK and moves of maximizing military threats to it. But the U.S. president at a gold links again let out a load of nonsense about “fire and fury,” failing to grasp the on-going grave situation. This is extremely getting on the nerves of the infuriated Hwasong artillerymen of the KPA.

It seems that he has not yet understood the statement.

Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him. This is the judgment made by the service personnel of the KPA Strategic Force.

The military action the KPA is about to take will be an effective remedy for restraining the frantic moves of the U.S. in the southern part of the Korean peninsula and its vicinity.

The Hwasong artillerymen of the KPA Strategic Force are replete with a strong determination to fully demonstrate once again the invincible might of the force, which has developed into a reliable nuclear force of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the world, strongest strike service, through the planned enveloping strike targeting the U.S. imperialist bases of aggression.

The Strategic Force is also considering the plan for opening to public the historic enveloping fire at Guam, a practical action targeting the U.S. bases of aggression.

This unprecedented step is to give stronger confidence in certain victory and courage to the Korean people and help them witness the wretched plight of the U.S. imperialists.

The Hwasong-12 rockets to be launched by the KPA will cross the sky above Shimane, Hiroshima and Koichi Prefectures of Japan. They will fly 3356.7 km for 1065 seconds and hit the waters 30 to 40 km away from Guam.

The KPA Strategic Force will finally complete the plan until mid August and report it to the commander-in-chief of the DPRK nuclear force and wait for his order.

We keep closely watching the speech and behavior of the U.S.

The bottom line is that while Trump expects Kim to relent, the North Korean leader clearly has no plans to do that, and demands the same from Trump, which also won’t happen. How this crisis is resolved in a peaceful, diplomatic way under these conditions remains unknown, if not impossible.

Trump: US nuclear arsenal stronger than ever after I ordered modernization

This is clearly nonsense – how much “modernisation” of nuclear weapons do you think the Pentagon could have managed since Trump came to power in January? They are probably still evaluating design tenders and nothing has been completed yet. A budget of a trillion Dollars has been talked about for a full modernisation program, but we have seen no signs of an Appropriations Bill in Congress.

Tillerson’s attempts to calm things down after Trump’s off-the-cuff Twitter tirades, has been seen before. However Tillerson knows that saying “no imminent threat” will not cool the tensions felt in the US as the media have been stirring up fears non-stop since the first ICBM test on 4th July (which was probably only an IRBM).

We know that Kim’s response to the B-1B Lancers flyover was to do nothing militarily, but what were China and Russia thinking/doing at the time? They are certainly doing something in case the B-1s divert to another attack target.

It would certainly have been possible to scramble a group of their best Chengdu J-20 fighters and be up there over the East Korean Sea to meet the B-1s and their escorts. There would be plenty of time to spot the B-1s on their long journey from Guam. Also plenty of options for anti-aircraft missiles from naval ships at sea south of Japan.

Russia obviously has its S-400 system in the surrounds of Vladivostok, and it would be very surprising if China did not have something similar. Flying B-1s around the Korean Peninsular is a very dangerous thing to do and only forces China and Russia to think about their tactics and practice their defensive posture.

https://www.rt.com/usa/399072-trump-powerful-nuclear-arsenal/

Trump: US nuclear arsenal stronger than ever after I ordered modernization


9 Aug, 2017

Donald Trump tweeted that his first order as president was to renovate and modernize the American nuclear arsenal, which is now stronger “than ever before,” adding that Washington will never allow any nation to surpass US power.

Trump also said that he hopes the US will never have to use its nuclear weapons.

The remarks follow recent verbal sparring between Washington and Pyongyang. Earlier, Trump warned North Korea that any threat to the US would be repelled with brutal force.

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Trump said on Tuesday in widely televised broadcast.

Hours later, North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency delivered the threat of launching a missile strike on the US Pacific island of Guam, warning Washington not to go too far in its aggressive stance.

In the message, a North Korean military spokesman described the recent flypast by US strategic bombers near the Korean Peninsula as an “actual nuclear drill” that is “driving the regional situation to an extreme pitch.”

The North Korean military is “carefully examining the operation plan for making an enveloping fire at the areas around Guam with medium-to-long-range ballistic rocket Hwasong-12,” the spokesman added.

The US mainland is not protected against retaliatory strikes, the North Korean military said, urging the US to immediately halt “reckless military provocations” against Pyongyang. Otherwise, it said, North Korea will make “an unavoidable military choice.”

On Tuesday, the US Pacific Air Forces [PACAF] said that two B-1B bombers “joined their counterpart from the Republic of Korea and Japanese air forces” for a 10-hour flight mission the previous day. The supersonic bombers took off from an airbase in Guam.

In an apparent attempt to calm rising tensions, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday that there was no “imminent threat” from North Korea, adding that “Americans should sleep well at night,” AP reported.

Trump is sending “the wrong message” with his bellicose rhetoric, according to Victor Gao, international affairs expert and director of China National Association of International Studies.

“You cannot have the US President warmongering against the DPRK [North Korea] whereas Secretary of State Tillerson is calling it not an enemy of the United States,” Gao told RT.

It is time for the US to join the international community and seek a political solution to the Korean nuclear issue, he said.

“Launching a war against the DPRK would be a disaster, both for [North Korea] and eventually for the United States… people in this region cannot afford another catastrophe in the form of total war in the peninsula,” Gao said, urging the president to stop calling for coercive actions.

$2-Billion Private Equity Fund Collapses to almost Zero

Nobody has ever made any profit from shale oil. The “oil” is different in profile to regular crude, having a much bigger proportion of lighter hydrocarbons, and only sells at a reduced price. Moreover the wells run low on pressure more quickly, so have a shorter productive lifetime, which means more expensive drilling and fracking more often.

While the oil majors knew this and stood back from developing fields, the brash minor players charged in, took out huge loans, and started drilling like mad.

But how could banks be so short-sighted – surely they know how to read a business plan and recognise a crock when they see one? Why indeed. It could only be because they were given the green light from above to lend. The bill for imported oil was threatening to bankrupt the nation, so it made sense to throw money at shale oil and kick the can down the road a while longer. And it worked for the time Obama was in office.

Talk of “energy independence” is all pure myth – the US imports over 7 million barrels of oil PER DAY. Now they are caught owing billions of dollars and struggling to pay off their massive loans, and have to drill to get the money to make the payments.

The fund managers, who happily took money off pension funds and the like, have played some clever tricks on the creditors, and when they go bust everybody will be hurting. So be it.

http://wolfstreet.com/2017/07/17/2-billion-private-equity-fund-collapses-to-almost-zero/
$2-Billion Private Equity Fund Collapses to almost Zero
by Wolf Richter
July 17, 2017

Investors who’d plowed $2 billion four years ago into a private equity fund that had also borrowed $1.3 billion to lever up may receive “at most, pennies for every dollar they invested,” people familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal.

Fund raising and investing started in 2013. Houston-based EnerVest manages the fund. This could be the first time ever that a PE fund larger than $1 billion lost nearly all of its value.

The lenders to the fund are now negotiating to take control of the fund’s assets, these “people familiar with the matter” told the Journal. Wells Fargo is leading the negotiations.

Investors span the spectrum of institutions managing other people’s money. Some of them might have sold their stakes to cut their losses. Among these investors are: the Orange County Employees Retirement System; Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Canada’s second-largest pension fund; Florida’s largest pension fund manager; the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Plan, covering union members in nearly 30 states; the J. Paul Getty Trust; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; the Fletcher Jones Foundation; the Michigan State University; and a foundation supporting Arizona State University.

But it sounded good at the time…

EnerVest, which was started in 1992 and focuses on energy investments, kicked off the fund in 2013, raising $2 billion in equity from institutional investors and borrowing $1.3 billion. According to the Journal, it specializes in acquiring oil and gas fields with producing wells that are neglected by larger oil companies. It then makes improvements and drills additional wells to raise production.

The fund was started at the peak of the fracking boom, when West Texas Intermediate traded between $91 and $109 per barrel. Another fund EnerVest started in 2010 by raising $1.5 billion and borrowing $800 million is also in trouble. In the past, EnerVest’s funds had stellar returns and it had no trouble raising the funds.

These “resource funds” appeal to institutional investors due to the steady cash flow they normally generate starting with their first investments.

What the fund didn’t include in the calculus was that by early February 2016, WTI would be trading below $30 a barrel, and that it is currently trading at $46.62, less than half of where it was when the investments were being made.

And the fund added an unusual twist: it cross-collateralized the fund’s assets. Normally, PE funds debt-finance each investment separately so that if it fails, the debt will take down only the individual investment. The remaining investments in the fund would be untouched. But EnerVest’s funds encumbered all of the investments in the fund with fund-level debt, and so the fund’s good and bad assets alike are going to the lenders. Hence the total loss for investors.

EnerVest already tried to restructure the two funds – the one raised in 2010 and the one raised in 2013 – in order to meet repayment demands from the lenders. The lenders, in turn, have already written down the collateral value, according to public pension documents and people familiar with the efforts, cited by the Journal.

Until this collapse, it was “almost unheard of” for a PE fund with over $1 billion in assets to lose more than 25%, the Journal said, citing investment firm Cambridge Associates. But now, based on public pension records, several other energy-focused funds are “in danger of doing so.”

The renewed hype about shale oil – which is curiously similar to the prior hype about shale oil that ended in the oil bust – and the new drilling boom it has engendered, with tens of billions of dollars being once again thrown at it by institutional investors, has skillfully covered up the other reality: The damage from the oil bust is far from over, losses continue to percolate through portfolios and retirement savings, and in many cases – as with pensions funds – the ultimate losers, whose money this is, are blissfully unaware of it.

WaPo: and they have nukes on those ICBMs!!

WaPo dutifully confirms the tentative Japanese opinion that North Korea has miniaturized nuclear war heads that can go on their ICBMs. Why would they want to do that? – to raise tensions in the US, and improve the political climate for more Pentagon budget. By endless repetition, they have got everyone believing in NK’s ICBMs, and now they are piling THIS horror story on top – are you scared yet?

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-08-08/us-confirms-nkorea-has-icbm-ready-nuclear-warheads

US “Confirms” N.Korea Has ICBM-Ready Nuclear Warheads


Tyler Durden
Aug 8, 2017

First thing this morning we reported that according to a 500-page report by the Japanese Defense Ministry, North Korea may now be in possession of a miniature nuclear warhead. That said, the report did not move the market because the Japanese report was largely inconclusive and did not claim with certainty that this is the case.

Now, moments ago, the exact same narrative escalated when the WaPo echoed what Japan said, only it now “confirms” that North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles, “crossing a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power, U.S. intelligence officials have concluded in a confidential assessment.”

As the WaPo adds, the analysis completed last month by the Defense Intelligence Agency comes on the heels of another intelligence assessment that sharply raises the official estimate for the total number of bombs in the communist country’s atomic arsenal.

“The IC [intelligence community] assesses North Korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, to include delivery by ICBM-class missiles,” the assessment states, in an excerpt read to The Washington Post. The assessment’s broad conclusions were verified by two U.S. officials familiar with the document. It is not yet known whether the reclusive regime has successfully tested the smaller design, although North Korean officially last year claimed to have done so.

Of course, another vivid instance of “confirmation” of weapons being present, not nuclear so much as of “mass destruction” is the following.

In any case, the U.S. calculated last month that up to 60 nuclear weapons are now controlled by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Some independent experts believe the number of bombs is much smaller.

As Jeff Bezos’ paper of record adds, the findings are likely to deepen concerns about an evolving North Korean military threat that appears to be advancing far more rapidly than many experts had predicted. The “conclusion” will also accelerate US plans, already in place, to intervene “preemptive” in North Korea, just as the neo-con/warhawks in Washington desire, once again binding Trump in the process.

The WaPo report has certainly impacted the market, well the FX market if not the S&P which just keeps rising as CTAs are buying because other CTAs are buying, and the USDJPY has slumped on the news, revealing the latest divergence between it and the S&P.

and the NK response

After Trump’s lurid “fire and fury” threat, and his claim to be “tough and decisive”, North Korea fires straight back with a threat to target Guam, the US forward base, 9,765 km from the US mainland.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-08-08/north-korea-responds-trump-threat-says-it-seriously-considering-pre-emptive-strike-g

North Korea Responds To Trump Threat, Says It Is “Seriously Considering” Pre-Emptive Nuclear Strike On Guam


Tyler Durden
Aug 8, 2017

Challenge accepted.

If Trump thought that his bluff would be sufficient to finally shut up North Korea, and put an end to Kim’s provocative behavior, well… bluff called because North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency reported moments ago that not only did N.Korea escalate the tensions up another notch, but explicitly warned that it could carry out a “pre-emptive operation once the US shows signs of provocation”, and that it is “seriously considering a strategy to strike Guam with mid-to-long range missiles.”

And the full report:

http://knca.co [site currently blocking access or being blocked]

U.S Should be Prudent under Present Acute Situation: Spokesman For KPA Strategic Force


Pyongyang, August 9 (KCNA)

A spokesman for the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) released the following statement on August 8:

Recently, the U.S. test-fired ICBM Minuteman-3 at its Vandenberg Air Force Base in Califrnia State targeting the DPRK, the fourth one this year, openly staged an actual nuclear strike drill targeting the strategic objects of the DPRK by mobilizing its nuclear strategic bombers formation stationed at its Anderson Air Force Base on Guam in the Pacific. It is driving the regional situation to an extreme pitch by bringing various kinds of nuclear strategic hardware before the very eyes of the DPRK. The Strategic Force of the KPA has taken special note of such maneuvers.

Such military maneuvers of the U.S. may provoke a dangerous conflict under the present extremely acute situation prevailing on the Korean peninsula.

Typically, the nuclear strategic bombers from Guam frequent the sky above south Korea to openly stage actual war drills and muscle-flexing in a bid to strike the strategic bases of the DPRK. This grave situation requires the KPA to closely watch Guam, the outpost and beachhead for invading the DPRK, and necessarily take practical actions of significance to neutralize it.

In the morning of August 8 the air pirates of Guam again appeared in the sky above south Korea to stage a mad-cap drill simulating an actual war.

Supreme Commander of the revolutionary forces of the DPRK Kim Jong Un, estimating the nature of the military action taken by the U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific region, once recommended examination of a powerful and effective action plan for containing the U.S. imperialists’ aggression hardware as the U.S. forces are resorting to inappropriate and reckless military actions in the sensitive area, while going on the rampage in the waters off the Korean peninsula and the Pacific waters.

The KPA Strategic Force is now carefully examining the operational plan for making an enveloping fire at the areas around Guam with medium-to-long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 in order to contain the U.S. major military bases on Guam including the Anderson Air Force Base in which the U.S. strategic bombers, which get on the nerves of the DPRK and threaten and blackmail it through their frequent visits to the sky above south Korea, are stationed and to send a serious warning signal to the U.S.

It should immediately stop its reckless military provocation against the state of the DPRK so that the latter would not be forced to make an unavoidable military choice.

The plan is to be soon reported to the Supreme Command soon after going through full examination and completion and will be put into practice in a multi-concurrent and consecutive way any moment once Kim Jong Un, supreme commander of the nuclear force of the DPRK, makes a decision.

The execution of this plan will offer an occasion for the Yankees to be the first to experience the might of the strategic weapons of the DPRK closest.

Explicitly speaking again, the strategic weapons which the DPRK manufactured at the cost of blood and sweat, risking everything, are not a bargaining thing for getting acknowledgement from others and for bartering for anything, but they serve as substantial military means for resolutely countering the U.S. political and economic pressure and military threat as what has been observed now.

Will only the U.S. have option called “preventive war” as is claimed by it?

It is a daydream for the U.S. to think that its mainland is an invulnerable Heavenly kingdom.

The U.S. should clearly face up to the fact that the ballistic rockets of the Strategic Force of the KPA are now on constant standby, facing the Pacific Ocean and pay deep attention to their azimuth angle for launch.

It should make a proper option so as not to regret today in the future.

Needless to say, with both leaders determined to keep escalating until the adversary folds, this seemingly inevitable military conflict will not have a happy ending.

The good news for Guam, is that the US has had a THAAD anti-ballistic missile battery on the Pacific island since 2015; in fact it was the first permanent deployment of THAAD outside continental United States.

On the American Territory of Guam in the western Pacific, is Task Force Talon, the world’s only deployed and active THAAD battery site. This is the world’s newest missile defense capability that can intercept missiles in lower space and in the upper atmosphere with its extremely powerful, long range X-Band radar that defends U.S. soil and American citizens in Guam against North Korean ballistic missiles. Equally important, Task Force Talon projects U.S. strategic air power into Asia through B-52 bombers deployed at Anderson Air Force Base and a U.S. submarine navy port as well as the largest American fuel and munitions depot in the Pacific. Last month, the B-52 squadron from Guam was used in power projecting flights over the internationally disputed artificial Chinese islands in the South China Sea. This squadron has also flown over the DMZ in warning to North Korea in the past. Task Force Talon in Guam remains indispensable not only for American power projection, but also delivering extended deterrence for U.S. allies in the Asia Pacific region.

maximizing European reassurance

More geopolitical pressure on Russia, as US starts work on a Maritime Operations Centre at Ochakov just 150 km from the Crimean Peninsular, under the guise of reassurance for European safety. This will ensure Ochakov being targeted by nuclear-armed missiles at the start of any war with Russia – some reassurance.

https://www.rt.com/news/399006-us-seabees-ukraine-maritime-center/

US Navy team starts building maritime ops center at Ukrainian base


8 Aug, 2017

The US Navy has launched construction of a maritime operations center in Ukraine which will serve as a “major planning and operation hub” during military exercises hosted by the country.

“Seabees [US Naval Construction Battalions] held a groundbreaking ceremony for a maritime operations center on Ochakov Naval Base, Ukraine, July 25,” the US Navy said in a statement released on Monday.

The Seabees have been in Ochakov since April to establish contracts, obtain construction permits, and perform other logistical tasks for the maritime operations center project, the Navy said.

The maritime operations center is one of three projects that the Seabees will execute in Ochakov.

“Beginning construction in Ukraine is a significant accomplishment,” Lt. j.g. (junior grade) Jason McGee, officer in charge of Det. Ukraine said.

“Our ability to maximize European reassurance initiatives in Ukraine holds strategic importance, and will ultimately improve host nation defense capacity and infrastructure, strengthen relations and increase bilateral training capabilities,” he added.

The Seabees are also set to build a boat maintenance facility and entry control points with perimeter fencing in Ochakov.

Last month, several US missile warships, over 800 sailors, and a Navy SEALs team took part in the 12-day Sea Breeze 2017 joint NATO naval exercise off Ukraine. The multinational war games took place in the northwestern part of the Black Sea, near the Ukrainian port city of Odessa.

The Sixth Fleet said in a press release that the US Navy sent the USS Hue City Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser and the USS Carney Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, along with a P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft.

Moscow has long objected to NATO’s large-scale war games near the Russian border, which intensified after the March 2014 referendum in which Crimea voted for reunification with Russia.

In late June, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said that the Alliance’s provocative actions “raise mutual suspicions and push us [Russia] to undertake retaliatory measures, mainly in the western strategic direction.”

On July 13, Russian permanent representative to NATO Alexander Grushko said that NATO activities in eastern Europe “not only ensure a reinforced military presence of the allies in the immediate vicinity of Russia’s borders but in fact represent an intensive mastering of the potential theater of military operations.”

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the US”

“You must not threaten us, but we are still allowed to threaten you”


B1-Lancer flies over the Korean peninsular with Japanese and South Korean fighter escort.


THAAD missile system in South Korea


US/South Korea responds by practicing of “precision strikes”

That kind of logic will not bring North Korea to the negotiating table. Can they really be so “exceptional” that they can’t see that? The whole world is watching …
– and is not impressed.

https://www.rt.com/news/398977-trump-nkorea-crisis-efforts/

Trump warns North Korea new threats will be met with ‘fire & fury’


8 Aug, 2017

US President Donald Trump has yet again called for tough and decisive action over the “dangers posed by North Korea,” while praising the UN’s solidarity over the crisis. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is reportedly reviewing missile restrictions with Seoul.

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the US. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Trump said on Tuesday afternoon.

Trump’s statement comes three days after the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously voted to impose a new round of sanctions on Pyongyang in response to its latest ballistic missile tests.

“After many years of failure, countries are coming together to finally address the dangers posed by North Korea,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning, adding that “we must be tough & decisive!”

Earlier, Trump expressed pleasure with “Russia’s and China’s cooperation” with the US against North Korea in adopting the UNSC resolution targeting key North Korean exports.

Washington has repeatedly pushed for the denuclearization and disarmament of North Korea, while it conducts joint drills with its allies in the region, including South Korea and Japan. The US is also reconsidering the size of missiles that South Korea can obtain as well as bolstering its defense capabilities, Reuters reports, citing the Pentagon.

“There is currently a limit on the warhead size and missiles that South Korea can have and yes, it is a topic under active consideration here,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis stated on Monday, as quoted by Reuters.

“I would tell you that we would be favorably inclined to do anything which furthers the defense capabilities of South Korea and we certainly have seen our alliance change and adapt over time before,” Davis said.

The Pentagon statement came following Seoul’s request to increase the cap on payloads to 1,000kg, voiced by South Korean President Moon Jae-in during a telephone conversation with Trump on Monday, South Korean Yonhap news agency reports.

Under the 2012 agreement with the US, South Korea is currently allowed to develop missiles with a range of up to 800km (497 miles) and a payload of 500kg, according to the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI). The agreed guidelines, which increased the range of South Korean missiles by 500 km but did not increase the payload, are considered “controversial” by the NTI. The organization says the missiles can “contribute to tensions in Northeast Asia” and despite their ability to reach any part of North Korea, they wouldn’t protect from the North’s mobile missile forces and attacks from island territories.

Following what was believed to be the second intercontinental missile (ICBM) test conducted by North Korea on July 28, Moon Jae-in apparently changed his mind over American Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense systems. Seoul requested renewed talks with the US on deploying THAAD systems, while earlier the South Korean leader had criticized the decision of previous government to host the missiles and announced he would delay additional deployments until environmental concerns were addressed.

VPN service providers

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are an excellent way of maintaining your privacy while navigating the internet. Essentially it establishes an encrypted channel to a proxy server that acts as a relay for all your traffic, so that it is their IP address instead of yours that sends all web page requests and therefore receives all the responses, meaning you can’t be tracked by the website. What’s more, all your ISP gets to see is constant stream of encrypted data, so they can’t track you or filter the URLs you can visit either. Of course you have to pay if you want a good service, but prices are about $40 per year, which is quite cheap .

However you have to trust the VPN service provider not to track you, so this news is a bit disappointing. It underlines that you cannot trust anybody on the internet. Your internet data is valuable, so people will track you and sell the data, even while claiming that they would never do that. I use Private Internet Access, and they provide a very efficient service, but I cannot vouch for them not doing what Hotspot Shield have been doing.

http://thehackernews.com/2017/08/hotspot-shield-vpn-privacy.html

Hotspot Shield VPN Accused of Spying On Its Users’ Web Traffic


Mohit Kumar

“Privacy” is a bit of an Internet buzzword nowadays as the business model of the Internet has now shifted towards data collection.

Although Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of the best solutions to protect your privacy and data on the Internet, you should be more vigilant while choosing a VPN service which actually respects your privacy.

If you are using popular free virtual private networking service Hotspot Shield, your data could be at a significant risk.

A privacy advocacy group has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against virtual private networking provider Hotspot Shield for reportedly violating its own privacy policy of “complete anonymity” promised to its users.

The 14-page-long complaint filed Monday morning by the Centre for Democracy and Technology (CDT), a US non-profit advocacy group for digital rights, accused Hotspot Shield of allegedly tracking, intercepting and collecting its customers’ data.

Developed by Anchorfree GmbH, Hotspot Shield is a VPN service available for free on Google Play Store and Apple Mac App Store with an estimated 500 million users around the world.

VPN is a set of networks conjugated together to establish secure connections over the Internet and encrypts your data, thereby securing your identity on the Internet and improving your online security and privacy.

The VPN services are mostly used by privacy advocates, journalists, digital activists and protesters to bypass censorship and geo-blocking of content.

Hotspot Shield does just Opposite of What All it Promises

The Hotspot Shield VPN app promises to “secure all online activities,” hide users’ IP addresses and their identities, protect them from tracking, and keep no connections logs while protecting its user’s internet traffic using an encrypted channel.

However, according to research conducted by the CDT along with Carnegie Mellon University, the Hotspot Shield app fails to live up to all promises and instead logs connections, monitors users’ browsing habits, and redirects online traffic and sells customer data to advertisers.

“It is thusly unfair for Hotspot Shield to present itself as a 48 mechanism for protecting the privacy and security of consumer information while profiting off of that information by collecting and sharing access to it with undisclosed third parties,” the CDT complaint reads.

“Consumers who employ Hotspot Shield VPN do so to protect their privacy, and Hotspot Shield’s use of aggressive logging practices and third-party partnerships harm its consumers’ declared privacy interests.”

Hotspot Shield also found injecting Javascript code using iframes for advertising and tracking purposes.

Reverse engineering of the apps source code also revealed that the VPN uses more than five different third-party tracking libraries.

Researchers also found that the VPN app discloses sensitive data, including names of wireless networks (via SSID/BSSID info), along with unique identifiers such as Media Access Control addresses, and device IMEI numbers.

The CDT also claims that the VPN service sometimes “redirects e-commerce traffic to partnering domains.”

If users try to visit any commercial website, the VPN app redirects that traffic to partner sites, including ad companies, to generate revenue.

“For example, when a user connects through the VPN to access specific commercial web domains, including major online retailers like http://www.target.com and http://www.macys.com,the application can intercept and redirect HTTP requests to partner websites that include online advertising companies,” the complaint reads.

The CDT wants the FTC to start an investigation into what the Hotspot Shield’s “unfair and deceptive trade practices” and to order the company to stop mispresenting privacy and security promises while marketing its app.

Trump threatens China with new trade war

Not content with this week’s sanctions against Russia, North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela, Trump is also going for China, although the expected announcement didn’t materialise this week. The claim is partly that China is a currency manipulator, although the US is the biggest currency manipulator in the world, courtesy of the Federal Reserve interventions in bonds and equities. It should be noted that China’s stated objective is to hold its currency stable against a trade-weighted basket of currencies that is basically all major currencies, excluding the US. Meanwhile as Foreign Exchange (FX) gamblers play their games with currencies, the US Dollar has seen a massive 7% devaluation in the last 3 months:

This, of course, puts pressure on Japan, Europe, UK to maintain their exports against this US currency manipulation, meaning more stimulus in the form of Central Bank support for bonds and equities, and round we go again. This is called “circling the toilet” or “race to the bottom” or “making America great again”.

One reasonable response to this by China could be a month long boycott of trade with the US, which would see the shelves in Walmart stores empty and protests on the steets (see the current state of Venezuela to see what that is like).

https://www.rt.com/news/398746-trump-china-trade-war/

Trump threatens China with new trade war, Beijing appears unmoved


5 Aug, 2017

Amid expectations of the US launching investigations into China’s alleged theft of American intellectual property as well as unfair trade practices, Beijing appears unmoved by the imminent probe while US businesses fear reprisals in case the row unintentionally escalates.

Washington is expected to soon announce investigations into how China tackles copyright protection, protectionism and market access. President Donald Trump reportedly intents to use a provision in the Trade Act of 1974, which would allow him to slap tariffs and other barriers on Chinese products while circumventing the World Trade Organization (WTO) mechanisms for redressing grievances.

A White House announcement of the measures was expected Friday but has been postponed.

US ‘bullying tactics’

The Chinese reaction to the anticipated investigations was calm. Beijing’s commerce ministry said Thursday that China was willing to work with the US to settle their differences, saying trade benefited both parties.

“The China-US trade relationship is… mutually beneficial. Cooperation would benefit both sides and fighting would hurt both,” ministry spokesman Gao Feng told journalists.

He added that conflicts over trade practices should be resolved through the WTO and downplayed the concern over China’s handling of intellectual property rights of foreign companies.

Chinese state media, which often relays Beijing’s position in more strong terms, was more forthcoming. In an editorial, the China Daily warned the US against politicizing bilateral trade, addressing the connection made by Trump between the economy and what he called Beijing’s failure to help in solving the North Korean question.

“Imposing tariffs and restrictions on Chinese imports would serve the interests of neither side, since China will have no choice but to take retaliatory measures, thus paving the way for a trade war,” the newspaper cautioned. “Both sides should work hard to avoid that damaging eventuality.”

The Global Times, the tabloid off-shoot of the official People’s Daily, ran expert commentary which called the US’ tactics “bullying”.

“This is bully negotiating tactics from Trump, trying to pressure China into meeting its unreasonable demands that only benefit the US,” Mei Xinyu, an associate researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the commerce ministry, told the newspaper.

“China is not what it was two decades ago. Today, we are the world’s second-largest economy and largest trading nation. There are many tools we can use to deal with the US.”

Huo Jianguo, vice chairman of the China Society for World Trade Organization Studies, which is also affiliated with the Chinese commerce ministry, suggested that the US president is picking a fight with China “to make good on campaign promises and ease pressure”.

On his campaign trail, Trump threatened to slap a 45 percent tariff on all goods from China while branding Beijing as a currency manipulator.

After his election, there was much speculation in the Chinese media of an ensuing trade war with the US. Some outlets ran extensive explanations of how China would be invulnerable in such a conflict and could hit back at the US with certain measures, such as buying Airbus aircraft instead of Boeing or placing tariffs on US soybeans and maize.

However the economic tit-for-tat between world’s two largest economies failed to materialize. After meeting China’s President Xi Jinping in April, Trump made it clear that he would rather pressure Pyongyang together with Beijing than threaten Chinese trade.

Meanwhile American companies are worried about how the Trump administration would handle the promised investigations, Reuters reported.

“Companies, I think, are rightly concerned about how this administration will handle any sort of enforcement action or investigation given that we have not seen this administration be particularly nuanced or strategic in its approach,” a technology industry source who asked not to be identified before an official announcement of the probes, told Reuters.

“We’ve been talking with (National Security Council) but frankly for us even, it’s difficult to determine exactly who are the decision makers,” the source said. “We just don’t know exactly what the mentality will be or… the decision making or calculus.”

Concern over potential fallout from the US move was also expressed by the head of WTO, the organization risking to be undermined as a global arbiter of trade conflicts.

“It is easy to see where such chain reactions begin… Should a trade war break out, countries will in the end be worse off than when the dispute begins,” Roberto Azevedo told a trade forum Wednesday.

Beijing’s restrained response to Trump’s trade policy makes sense when you consider the inner workings of the Chinese economy, investor Charles Ortel explained to RT, since it would not be in a position to ‘win’ any kind of trade war with the United States.

“The situation inside China is not as monolithic as some suggest – there are wide gaps between economic reality for the top and then for the bottom 80-90 percent. And I would not and do not presume how to ‘instruct’ the Chinese leadership how best to manage their local realities,” Ortel wrote in an email.

“But, I do believe, fighting with the US is not a winning economic strategy because the internal Chinese market will take many years to hold realistic prospect of absorbing the goods and services presently exported to America.

So, if China wished to move forward, I believe the government could take steps that promote world peace – [such as] truly helping with North Korea, standing down against India [and] pulling back from external expansion in disputed territory – and that are in the interest of many nations, including Russia and the US.

And, if the Trump Administration saw solid evidence of such steps, I believe the rising trade frictions might cool, to an extent.”

However, Hong Kong-based investment and banking specialist Andrew Leung believes that Trump’s measures are an attempt to distract the public from his inability to resolve the problem with North Korea.

“The souring of relations with China is typical of Donald Trump’s capricious and short-wired temperament,” Leung told RT.

“As he appears to be ineffective in resolving the North Korean crisis, he is venting his anger on and trying to divert public attention to China, as if China alone can solve what basically is a deep-seated mistrust problem between Pyongyang and Washington.”

Leung also warned not to underestimate the level of economic damage China could cause the US.

“China has an arsenal of big ticket items of American imports into China which are likely to hurt American businesses very seriously,” he said. “So on the one hand China will continue to urge caution and point out a proper way to address the North Korean issue, on the other hand, China will sound clear warnings targeting big American businesses.”