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 on their agreement 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.
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 last 15-plus years. This inaccurate figure appears also in the press and is often repeated by ill-informed analysts. 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 Pakistan Prime Minister said he was bewildered by Trump's figures for aid has been less than $10 million per year over the last five years.
In extraordinary contrast, 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. The world has certainly changed.
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 ...
Meanwhile 'Fire and Fury' is keeping Trump occupied as questions of mental illness prop up. He claims his principal characteristics "have been mental stability, and being, like, really smart," adding that getting elected president on his first try should "qualify as not smart, but genius... and a very stable genius at that!" Perhaps some enterprising reporter will ask him if his assertion also makes geniuses of the last three Democratic presidents.