Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Garrett Hinck
Tuesday, September 5, 2017, 2:49 PM

North Korea tested its most power nuclear weapon to date on Sunday, the New York Times reported. Although experts questioned North Korea’s claim that it had set off a hydrogen bomb, the blast produced a much higher magnitude earthquake than any of the North’s five previous tests. President Donald Trump immediately condemned the test on Twitter.

At the U.N., the United States called for a fuel cutoff to North Korea, the Times reported. Nikki Haley, the U.N. ambassador, said that North Korea was “begging for war” during an emergency session of the Security Council. The move requires support from China, North Korea’s largest trading partner, to be successful. On Monday, China criticized President Trump’s threat on Twitter to stop all business with North Korea’s trade partners, according to the Times.

South Korea demonstrated military strength as it attempted to boost its defensive capabilities in response to the North Korean nuclear test, the Washington Post reported. On Tuesday, South Korean warships conducted live-fire exercises in the East Sea. Additionally, the United States agreed to lift missile restrictions on South Korea, allowing Seoul to expand its preemptive strike capability. South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, also ordered the deployment of additional THAAD missile defense system launchers near Seoul, according to Reuters.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry warned on Monday that North Korea may be preparing to launch another missile into the Pacific, the Post reported. Amid tensions between the U.S. and its allies in the region, the South Korean Defense Ministry also suggested re-deploying American tactical nuclear weapons in the Korean peninsula to deter the North. President Trump threatened to withdraw from a trade pact with South Korea, the Post reported. The move could worsen Trump’s rocky relationship with President Moon Jae-in.Trump has enjoyed a much congenial partnership with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, according to the Times. Abe has already had more phone calls with President Trump than he had with President Obama in Obama’s final four years in office.

Clashes between Rohingya insurgents and Myanmar’s security forces have killed hundreds of people and displaced tens of thousands more, the Post reported. A Rohingya insurgent group’s attack on police posts last week caused a military crackdown on what Myanmar’s government calls a terrorist organization. The U.N. said on Tuesday that over 123,000 Rohingya had fled into neighboring Bangladesh in recent weeks, according to the Times. Aid agencies have criticized Myanmar’s government for blocking access to the displaced people, which the government says are migrants who do not deserve citizenship rights.

The congressional Russia investigations will resume with hearings and interviews of high-ranking Trump campaign operatives, Politico reported. In the next few weeks, both the Senate and House intelligence committees are expected to seek additional witness testimony, including from Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. The Senate Judiciary Committee has also scheduled Trump Jr. to testify in a public hearing about Trump associates’ ties to Moscow.

Syrian forces reached the outskirts of Islamic State-controlled Deir al-Zour as U.S. backed fighters seized Raqqa’s old city, the AP reported. The Syrian Army relieved a garrison of forces that the Islamic State had besieged since 2014 with assistance from Russian cruise missile strikes. Concurrently, U.S.-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces secured the old city neighborhood of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s capital city, according to the Post. A U.S. military spokesperson said that while the battle for Raqqa is not over, the SDF now controls approximately 60% of the city. Defeating the remaining Islamic State forces could take weeks said the spokesperson.

Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized the U.S. decision to close Russian diplomatic facilities in the U.S., Reuters reported. Putin said that the Russia’s foreign ministry would attempt to take legal action over alleged violations of Russia’s property rights and also said that Russia reserved the right to further cut U.S. diplomatic staff in Russia. The State Department said that it hoped its closures of a Russian consulate and diplomatic annexes would achieve “parity” between the U.S. and Russia, according to the Post.

The Colombian government signed a ceasefire with a leftist rebel group on Monday, the Post reported. The ceasefire with the ELN, which was at one time Colombia’s second largest armed guerilla group, came in advance of Pope Francis’s visit to the country. In the agreement, the ELN promised to stop its attacks in exchange for improved prison conditions for jailed ELN fighters. The ceasefire is a step towards peace in Colombia, and follows a peace accord last year with the FARC, formerly Colombia’s largest guerrilla group.

Cambodia’s government charged the leader of its main opposition party with treason on Tuesday, the Times reported. If convicted, Kem Sokha, the leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, could face a jail term of 30 years and his party could be dissolved. In the run-up to next year’s parliamentary elections, Cambodia’s government has aimed to suppress dissent, particularly groups linked to the United States. Cambodia is nominally a democracy, but its current leader, Hun Sen, has held power for 32 years and calls himself a “strongman.”

ICYMI: This weekend, on Lawfare

Matthew Kahn flagged a DOJ filing contradicting President Trump’s claim that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 election.

Kristin Smith Diwan wrote about the changing roles of Gulf monarchies in a new media environment in the Foreign Policy Essay.

Mieke Eoyang, Ben Freeman, and Benjamin Wittes published August 2017 data from the Confidence in Government on National Security Matters project.

Nora Ellingsen summarized developments in international terrorism prosecutions over the last few months.

Wittes outlined the journalistic sourcing conventions for stories involving the Russia investigation.

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.