Schoolyard name calling by an American president might be unusual, it might be undiplomatic, it might even be childish, yet it had the world riveted — if only for a short moment — on the antics of ‘rocket man’ and the Donald. The ‘nuclear button is on my desk says one’; ‘my button is bigger than yours and works better’, tweets the other. Bandying about nuclear threats doesn’t make any of us feel safer.
In all of this the South Korean president Moon Jae-in has taken up the North Korean offer of a meeting before the winter Olympics, which are being held in South Korea. In July last President Moon unveiled his policy towards North Korea in a speech in Berlin. Long a believer in the Sunshine Policy of greater cooperation with the North and eventual reunification, he chose the symbolic Berlin venue, for Germany has reunited. Notably, he stressed the Sunshine’s successes so far in the steps taken by the North toward liberalizing the domestic market. In this it is also following China although North Korea has a long way to go.
One can guess the North wanted to deal from a position of strength, and nuclear armed it feels ready; hence the earlier reference to a nuclear trigger. Its position is understandable as the South Korean government reneged when the right wing conservatives were elected. With the liberals back in charge, Moon made clear his interest in reviving closer cooperation, with some caveats as he outlined in Berlin.
Where does our tweeting president stand in this resumption of negotiations between South and North? Nowhere. He has been side-stepped.
His stance on Jerusalem appalled allies throwing a wrench in the works … the hypocrisy and double-talk, even the self-delusion of Palestinians and its pliant, co-opted PLO leadership. Now Trump has threatened to cut off aid to these leaders. If he does, he might well take them off this opioid drip and rouse the population. The total number of Palestinians in Israel and the occupied areas now exceeds Jews. The obvious question for an Israeli government apparently drunk with power is how it sees the future.
Mr. Trump has also threatened to cut off aid to Pakistan, a country that seldom suffered terrorist attacks before it got embroiled in the Afghan war through supply routes and trying and trying to keep its own border population in check. The notoriously porous border has families living on both sides and were natural allies of the Pashtuns taking on the U.S. supported Northern Alliance ensconced in Kabul. The result of sending Pakistani troops into the self-administered border areas has been a nascent civil war and terrorist attacks in major cities.
Trump tweeted a figure of $33 billion in aid to Pakistan in the 15 plus years. In fact, Obama put a sort of performance measure on the aid and thus only $20 billion (very little in grants) has been disbursed. The aid figure from China is more like $120 billion. Worth noting that in 2011, China Kingho Group canceled a $19 billion mining deal because of security concerns — a direct result of Pakistan’s participation in the Afghan adventure and a sum equal to the U.S. aid figure consisting mostly of loans.
Pakistan’s main battle tank manufactured in Pakistan is the result of a joint Chinese venture — the army used to be equipped with American tanks. The air force now relies on the Chinese Chengdu J-108 which with stealth features and newer electronics has an edge over the F-16. Also the JF-17 Thunder — a joint Pakistan-China project.
There goes another ally …