Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Hannah Kris
Friday, July 6, 2018, 3:15 PM

North Korea may be developing a new submarine with the capability to launch nuclear missiles, says South Korea, reports the Wall Street Journal. South Korea’s military saw satellite imagery that revealed workers and transportation of materials at the port city of Sinpo. The construction comes after a summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in which the two parties agreed to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. The possibility of nuclear-armed submarines concerns U.S. officials, who worry that the boats could allow North Korea to launch missiles closer to the U.S. coastline. In addition to developing a new nuclear submarine, North Korea is expanding both a missile-production facility and a plutonium-producing reactor. The new developments raise doubts as to North Korea’s commitment to disarm and de-escalate its military activities.

Trump plans to raise the issue of Russian efforts to meddle with the U.S. election with Putin in Helsinki, according to the Journal. The talks, which will form the first formal bilateral summit between Putin and Trump, will initially be one-on-one, with no official notetaker, before moving into a larger session. Trump plans to include discussions about Russia’s aggression in Europe, including the alleged poisoning of a former Russian double agent, and Russia’s alleged possession of banned missile technology, as well as Russian election interference. Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, highlighted the potential of the meeting to ease tensions, saying, “You can’t solve problems if you’re not talking about them.” Trump’s increased toughness towards Russia comes in opposition to his past statements, including skepticism about Russian election interference as reported by U.S. intelligence agencies, as well as a perceived admiration for Russian leader Putin.

The U.S. imposed tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods Friday morning, opening a trade war between the two countries, reports the New York Times. The tariffs went into effect at 12:01 a.m. EDT, prompting quick retaliation from the Chinese government in the form of tariffs on $34 billion worth of American goods. The tariffs have many worried about rising costs for both businesses and consumers, a worry exacerbated by Trump’s statements about trade with China, including potential levies on $16 billion worth of Chinese products and tariff increases on up to $450 billion of Chinese goods. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board criticized the tariffs and the reasoning behind them, saying that there are no national security reasons to impose such damaging tariffs on Chinese car imports. The Trump administration has justified its auto tariffs in the name of national security. The editorial board pointed to the health of the auto industry and the lack of support by carmakers, including General Motors, as evidence that the tariffs were harmful and unnecessary. The Journal also pointed to the increase in price for consumers, possibly up to $6,000 for each car.

The former prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, was convicted in absentia of corruption by a Pakistani anticorruption court, according to the Times. Sharif was accused of corruption after the Panama Papers leak disclosed undeclared property held by the Sharif family in London. The corruption accusations led to his removal from office a year ago and a prohibition on holding office for life. Sharif, who has been elected prime minister three times but never completed a term, denied any wrongdoing, but the court convicted Sharif, sentenced him to 10 years in prison and fined him $10.6 million. Sharif, who currently resides in London, has said that he will appeal the conviction, but many say that a favorable ruling is unlikely in higher courts.

Japan has executed seven people in connection with a 1995 terrorist attack on the Tokyo Subway that killed 13 people, reports Reuters. The executions came after more than 20 years of trials. The terrorist attack was carried out by a doomsday cult called Aum Supreme Truth, which was headed by Shoko Asahara. Asahara preached that a third world war would break out between the U.S. and Japan and that Japan would turn into a nuclear wasteland as a result. Asahara also led his followers in multiple terrorist attacks, including one sarin gas attack that  killed eight people in an attempt to kill three judges in a case against the cult in 1994 and another sarin attack on the Tokyo subway that left 13 dead in 1995. Many family members of victims expressed relief at the executions, but others in Japan worried that the executions could allow some to turn Asahara into a martyr and could spur further violence. The executions also prompted Amnesty International to release a statement condemning the death penalty in all cases and pointing to the executions in Japan as a denial of human rights.

Ongoing talks in Vienna between Iran and multiple European countries are unlikely to save the Iran nuclear deal, according to Reuters. The Iran deal, which was struck in 2015 and from which Trump withdrew the U.S. in May, relieved sanctions on Iran in return for increased oversight and curbs on the country’s nuclear program. Since the United States’s exit from the deal, the European powers that remain in the deal are struggling to find a solution to Iran’s increased demands, including compensation for the U.S.’s new sanctions. Many officials in Europe thought that more negotiations were needed, including German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass, who also said that world powers may have to struggle to compensate Iran for the economic blows of U.S. sanctions.

The U.S. army is in the process of discharging immigrant recruits who were promised a path to citizenship in return for military service, leaving their futures uncertain, reports the Associated Press. Though exactly how many people are being discharged remains unconfirmed, immigration attorneys have reported more than 40 immigrants who have been discharged. The program, which currently has 10,000 recruits, provides citizenship to immigrants with legal status in return for military service. The discharged recruits all have had their basic training delayed, prohibiting them from becoming naturalized citizens. Many who have been discharged were informed that they had been labeled security risks due to having relatives abroad or to the inability to complete background checks on them. Citing pending litigation, spokespeople for the Army and Pentagon did not explain the discharges to the Associated Press.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell released this week’s episode of Rational Security, the “I Thought You Said RE-nuclearization” edition, in which Shane Harris, Susan Hennessey, Tamara Cofman Wittes and Benjamin Wittes talked about North Korea, the next Supreme Court justice, and the war in Afghanistan.

Todd Tucker discussed the American Institute for International Steel lawsuit and Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act.

Josh Blackman analyzed the executive branch’s ability to unilaterally revoke the special counsel’s powers.

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 Boar