Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Alex Potcovaru
Monday, August 7, 2017, 3:08 PM

North Korea pledged Monday to take “thousand-fold” revenge against the United States and to increase its nuclear arsenal in response to the U.N. Security Council’s unanimous approval of a new sanctions package against the regime, the AP reports. The sanctions, passed on Saturday, aim to cut about $1 billion in North Korean exports. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at the ASEAN Regional Forum that North Korea could demonstrate its willingness to engage in talks by stopping its missile launches. North Korean officials firmly rejected this idea, saying their country would not negotiate away its nuclear weapons under any circumstances. China emphasized that the North should halt its missile launches but cautioned the United States and South Korea against increasing tensions.

U.S. troops are conducting training exercises in Eastern Europe designed to better prepare them to face Russian aggression, The New York Times reports. Many of the servicemembers must adapt to the more conventional warfare that a conflict in Eastern Europe would require, which differ significantly from the tactics and strategy many became accustomed to during tours in the Middle East. The exercises also help improve coordination and trust between U.S. forces and the militaries of Eastern European allies. Russia plans to conduct a large-scale training operation in the region next month that could feature as many as 100,000 troops and security forces; this has raised alarm among NATO allies.

About 2,000 elite Yemeni forces have launched an operation to reclaim a major al-Qaeda stronghold in the south of Yemen, the Times reports. Dozens of advisers from the UAE and a group of U.S. Special Operations commandos are providing intelligence and planning support for the offensive in Shabwa Province. Since taking office President Trump has increased the campaign against the Yemeni militants, and he has largely followed Barack Obama’s approach of primarily assisting local allies to make progress.

A member of the U.N. panel established to document war crimes in Syria has resigned amid frustrations over international inaction on the crisis, the Times reports. Carla del Ponte left her post after six years, during which the panel collected ample evidence of extreme atrocities committed in Syria. However, the U.N. Security Council did not refer the case to the International Criminal Court nor did the U.N. create a special tribunal. Del Ponte said she hoped her resignation would spur action on the issue.

Israel plans to ban Qatari-backed news organization Al Jazeera following allegations that the network incites violence, NBC reports. A number of Gulf Arab nations recently banned Al Jazeera following a diplomatic dispute with the Qatari government. Israeli officials have often accused the station of expressing bias against Israel. Al Jazeera said it would take legal action in response to the move.

Tillerson said that the U.S. would respond by Sept. 1 to Moscow’s demand that the U.S. reduce the number of personnel in American diplomatic missions in Russia by 755 individuals, the AP reports. The Kremlin instituted its demand as retaliation for President Trump’s signing of a bill imposing new sanctions against Russia for its interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. Secretary Tillerson met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Sunday in the Philippines, where both expressed the possibility of cooperation on other issues such as North Korea and Syria.

The U.S., Australia and Japan urged China and other Southeast Asian nations to ensure that the upcoming South China Sea Code of Conduct will be legally binding, Reuters reports. At the ASEAN Regional Forum on Sunday, member states adopted a negotiation framework for “consultations” on the formal agreement they have agreed to draft. The three nations issuing the statement, which do not claim territory in the region but have been active in trying to maintain freedom of navigation, also raised concerns over China’s “coercive unilateral action” in claiming territory in the region.

 

ICYMI: This weekend, on Lawfare

Matthew Kahn posted the Lawfare Podcast, featuring Benjamin Wittes’ interview on the North Korean threat with Mira Rapp-Hooper of the Center for a New American Security and Stephen Haggard, distinguished professor at the University of California, San Diego.

In Water Wars, Eliot Kim and Jared Dummitt covered the framework Code of Conduct for the South China Sea formally endorsed at the ASEAN forum and examined China’s recent display of military capability.

Emily Holland and Rebecca Friedman Lissner discussed how to counter growing Russian influence in the Balkans, arguing that the West should infuse economic aid and investment.

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