Trump Expands Pentagon's War Powers, Rejects Diplomacy, Threatens Unilateral Attack on North Korea
April 3, 2017
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Eli Watkins / CNN
On one hand, North Korea has violated UN Security Council resolutions banning its ballistic missile launches; on the other hand, South Korea, the US -- and now Japan -- insist on conducting super-large-scale military drills. It's a vicious cycle that could spiral out of control. Beijing has proposed a "double halt" approach that would see North Korea suspend its nuclear program, while the US and South Korea would call off joint military drills. The US has already dismissed the plan.
Trump Expands Pentagon's War Authority
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(April 2, 2017) -- While most of the talk about the Pentagon's proposals for various wars to President Trump has focused on requests for more troops in more countries, a much less publicized effort has also been getting rubber stamped, one giving commanders in those wars increasing autonomy on operations.
Buried in the details of almost every proposal from Iraq and Syria to smaller operations like US troops in Yemen and Somalia, there is always a mention of commanders wanting to be able to conduct strikes at will, both airstrikes and ground raids.
This has been a change that the Pentagon has been quite eager to seek, after years of complaining about President Obama "micromanaging" the various US wars, but it appears they may be trying to get a much broader collection of grants of autonomy than they've ever been granted before.
While President Trump is eager to make such moves early on to show that he is "listening to the generals," granting so much autonomy to the military to fight its own wars without political oversight is risky business, since the president will ultimately be held responsible for what the military does.
The long term ramifications could be even more dangerous, as it further distances America's direct foreign interventions from politicians, and by extension from the voters, turning the details of major military operations into little more than bureaucratic details for career military brass.
These major changes are happening in almost complete silence, as while there have been mentions of the Pentagon seeking these new authorities, always as an afterthought to getting more troops, there is little to no interest in debating the question.
Trump Threatens to Act Unilaterally Against North Korea
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(April 2, 2017) -- In an effort to try to pressure China to agree to help the US in moves against North Korea, President Trump today insisted that China would either need to agree to assist the US or that the US would act unilaterally against the nation's nuclear program.
The new interview, published today, saw Trump threatening to use trade as leverage against China to pressure them for cooperation. This comes just ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's planned visit to the US to visit with Trump.
That was likely to point, with Trump trying to set the stage for tough negotiations with China. His estimation that China has "great influence" over North Korea and could quickly solve the nation's nuclear program, however, is unclear.
China has been trying to get involved in the North Korea dispute in recent months, agreeing to cut off coal trade with the isolated nation as a concession to the US, but also trying to negotiate a deal where North Korea would scrap its nuclear program in return for the US ending its wargames simulating invasions of North Korea. The US, in that case, rejected the idea outright.
Trump: US Will Act Unilaterally
On North Korea if Necessary
Eli Watkins / CNN
WASHINGTON (April 2, 2017) -- US President Donald Trump has declared he would be willing to go it alone to restrain North Korea's nuclear weapons program should China fail to change the situation, saying if Beijing won't help solve it, then "we will" alone.
"China will either decide to help us with North Korea or they won't," Trump said in an interview published Sunday in the Financial Times. "If they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don't, it won't be good for anyone."
Trump's administration has repeatedly emphasized its high concern over the North Korean nuclear threat. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited China last month to press North Korea's neighbor for help in mitigating that threat, and Trump is scheduled to host Chinese President Xi Jinping this week in the US, where he intends to bring the issue up.
On the campaign trail and since taking office, Trump has argued China is responsible for the continued nuclear proliferation in North Korea. He said in his Financial Times interview that he planned to talk with Xi about that situation and use trade as "the incentive" to talk China into fixing it.
Trump has repeatedly said he would take aggressive action against China to reduce the US trade deficit with the country. But if the talks with Xi don't produce Trump's desired result of getting Beijing to solve the North Korean nuclear problem, Trump said the US would take action.
"If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will," Trump told the Financial Times. Asked to clarify if he believed the US could solve the problem without China, Trump said: "totally."
In an interview with ABC News Sunday, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the US should "no longer take the excuses from China that 'they're concerned.'"
"They need to show us how concerned they are . . . the only country that can stop North Korea is China, and they know that," she said.
The US maintains that China hasn't done enough to apply financial pressure given that Beijing is North Korea's only real ally and accounts for 70% of the country's trade.
China has repeatedly said that its influence over the North Korea has been overstated, and the US and South Korea should stop antagonizing North Korea with its annual military drills.
Thousands of US and South Korea troops are currently engaged in the Foal Eagle joint annual drills that finish on April 30.
"On one hand, North Korea has violated UN Security Council resolutions banning its ballistic missile launches; on the other hand, South Korea, the US -- and now Japan -- insist on conducting super-large-scale military drills. It's a vicious cycle that could spiral out of control -- and such a scenario would benefit no one," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said during a press briefing on March 14.
Beijing has proposed a "double halt" approach that would see North Korea suspend its nuclear program, while the US and South Korea would call off joint military drills.
The US has already dismissed the plan. In a briefing on March 9, Mark Toner, the acting State Department spokesman, said: "There's no equivalence between North Korea's illegal missile and nuclear activities and what is our lawful, longstanding joint security exercises with our allies in the region."
North Korean state media has slammed the drills, accusing the countries in a report dated March 12 of "becoming more reckless as the days go by."
North Korea has test-fired a number of missiles this year and in recent weeks has tested engines which analysts said could be used to power long-range weapons.
Last September, Pyongyang claimed to have tested a nuclear warhead, with South Korea's weather service estimating the explosion to have about 10 kilotons of power, or about two-thirds the power of the bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima in World War II.
Speaking in South Korea last month, Tillerson warned that the US would leave the option of military action on the table with regard to North Korea.
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