Dismantling nuclear test site “a very smart and gracious gesture”

A more conciliatory tone from Donald Trump.

North Korea has announced that they will dismantle Nuclear Test Site this month, ahead of the big Summit Meeting on June 12th. Thank you, a very smart and gracious gesture!

Whether North Korea would have done this with or without Trump’s threats and ridicule this is promising, he may consider negotiating something worthwhile. However he should be cautious about Kim Yong Un’s intent.

But Trump continues his rhetoric against Iran:

Iran’s Military Budget is up more than 40% since the Obama negotiated Nuclear Deal was reached…just another indicator that it was all a big lie. But not anymore!

On it’s own this statement is nonsense. An increased military indicates more military spending, and could have been non-nuclear spending to strengthen their traditional military power in a switch from nuclear.

And have they increased their spending by 40%? I don’t trust any tweeted claim from Trump, he has a history of making things up and making misleading claims.

In fact NY times debunks this claim, saying it just repeats a false claim made by Benjamin Netanyahu: 5 Claims From Trump’s Speech on Iran Deal That Are Misleading or Need Context

The Iran deal was reached in June 2015, but went into effect in early 2016, when the United States and European nations lifted sanctions. Since then, Iran’s military spending has increased by about 30 percent, from $10.8 billion in 2015 to $14.1 billion last year, adjusted for inflation, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The Congressional Research Service has estimated that Iran’s defense budget was about 3 percent of the gross domestic product, or $15 billion, in 2015 and about 4 percent of G.D.P., or $20 billion, in 2018.

Mr. Trump is referring to documents shared by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

And a week ago Barack Obama pointed out a huge difference between Iranian and US military spending:

“Iran’s defense budget is $30 billion. Our defense budget is closer to $600 billion.”

Politifact: Iran spends $30 billion on defense; U.S. about $600 billion

For the Defense Department alone, the Congressional Budget Office’s summary of the budget bill passed last December shows $520 billion in outlays with another $64 billion (good for two years) to cover overseas contingency operations, such as fighting the Islamic State group. That yields a total of $584 billion.

Laicie Heeley is policy director at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation. By Heeley’s tally, after you add in $19 billion for nuclear weapons and $7.5 billion in other departments, the total comes to $621 billion.

But Obama may have been too high on Iran’s military spending.

We found several estimates of Iran’s military spending. The Congressional Research Service said the country spends about 3 percent of its GDP, which translates into about $11 billion. Reuters reported that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani plans to spend 282 trillion rials on defense. At the current exchange rate, that equals about $10 billion. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute database has a similar figure.

The highest estimate we found came from the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, a Washington think tank and advocacy group. It put Iran’s total spending at $17.7 billion in 2013.

Iran may well have increased their military spending over the last few years, in part to fund their support of the government in the Syrian civil war, and in part to build their conventional military strength to build their strengthen after shelving their nuclear weapon development (if they have done this).

Last year Trump bragged about ‘historic’ increases in US military spending, another questionable claim. Trump’s Defense Increase ‘Historic’?

President Donald Trump told the nation’s governors that his first budget would include “a historic increase in defense spending.”

Trump, Feb. 27: This budget will be a public safety and national security budget, very much based on those two with plenty of other things but very strong. And it will include a historic increase in defense spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America at a time we most need it.

But defense experts say that’s not the case.

For fiscal year 2018, Trump has proposed a 9.4 percent increase in the base defense budget, which does not including war funding. But Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan enacted double-digit increases in base defense spending in five years in the 1980s — including a whopping 25 percent increase in fiscal 1981.

On Feb. 27, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Trump’s first proposed budget would contain $603 billion in defense discretionary spending for fiscal year 2018, which begins Oct. 1.

An 11% increase to about $600 billion is still a huge increase in military spending.

I am sceptical of claims by Iran, North Korea and Trump.

 

North Korea is not unpredictable?

Political and foreign correspondent Stan Grant writes that claims that North Korea is unpredictable are wrong.

RNZ: Kim probable: Why North Korea is not unpredictable

I have lost count of how many times this week I have heard or read analysts – and indeed government ministers – describe North Korea as “unpredictable”. It is a cliche, it is simplistic and it is wrong.

Nearly two decades of covering the goings-on inside the ‘hermit kingdom’ – both outside and inside the country – has taught me that the Kim regime is dangerous, brutal and petulant but if anything, predictable.

Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions reach back to the 1960s, but accelerated in the ’80s. It has conducted at least five nuclear tests, the most recent just last year, raising speculation – widely discounted – that North Korea has developed a hydrogen bomb, much more powerful than conventional atomic bombs.

According to various estimates, it has a stockpile of at least 10 and perhaps as many as 20 nuclear weapons. What it needs is the capacity to deliver them. It is working on that, developing missiles that could reach Australia or the continental United States.

Many will see that as dangerous. But so far in the nuclear age no country has used nuclear weapons to launch a new attack on another country.

None of that is unpredictable. It is calculated and it is aimed at one thing – regime survival.

Victor Cha, long-time North Korea watcher, American academic and author of The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future, once revealed that in nuclear negotiations with the United States and other parties in 2005, a Pyongyang envoy candidly said:

“The reason you attacked Afghanistan is because they don’t have nukes. And look at what happened to Libya. That is why we will never give up ours.”

This was a telling glimpse into the mind of a country that believes it is under siege.

North Korea isn’t the only country to arm themselves with nuclear weapons to try to protect themselves from attack.

Who is most likely to attack North Korea?

North Korea is ringed by American fire-power. There are as many as 30,000 US troops over the border in South Korea and just this week Washington has ordered its warships into the Korean coast.

North Korea and the US are still technically at war more than 60 years after the armistice. There has never been a peace treaty.

And the US under President Trump has increased it’s threatening language, going as far as saying they are considering a ‘-pre-emptive’ attack on North Korea.

I wouldn’t trust North Korea – especially when put under this much pressure.

But if a nuclear bomb goes off it won’t be just one country that is responsible.

Who is the most unpredictable, Kim or Trump?

Has a World War started?

According to John Pilger a world war is under way. Currently it is just a propaganda war but a growing nuclear raises the risks of a major escalation,

Pilger: A World War Has Begun. Break the Silence.

How many people are aware that a world war has begun? At present, it is a war of propaganda, of lies and distraction, but this can change instantaneously with the first mistaken order, the first missile.

The Obama administration has built more nuclear weapons, more nuclear warheads, more nuclear delivery systems, more nuclear factories.  Nuclear warhead spending alone rose higher under Obama than under any American president. The cost over thirty years is more than $1 trillion.

A mini nuclear bomb is planned. It is known as the B61 Model 12. There has never been anything like it.

And it raises the temptation and risk of a limited strike.

In the last eighteen months, the greatest build-up of military forces since World War Two — led by the United States — is taking place along Russia’s western frontier. Not since Hitler invaded the Soviet Union have foreign troops presented such a demonstrable threat to Russia.

What makes the prospect of nuclear war even more dangerous is a parallel campaign against China.

Seldom a day passes when China is not elevated to the status of a “threat”.

According to Admiral Harry Harris, the US Pacific commander, China is “building a great wall of sand in the South China Sea”.

What he is referring to is China building airstrips in the Spratly Islands, which are the subject of a dispute with the Philippines – a dispute without priority until Washington pressured and bribed the government in Manila and the Pentagon launched a propaganda campaign called “freedom of navigation”.

What does this really mean?  It means freedom for American warships to patrol and dominate the coastal waters of China.  Try to imagine the American reaction if Chinese warships did the same off the coast of California.

A bigger arsenal and more provocation.

The propaganda laying the ground for a war against Russia and/or  China is no different in principle. To my knowledge, no journalist in the Western “mainstream” — a Dan Rather equivalent, say –asks why China is building airstrips in the South China Sea.

The answer ought to be glaringly obvious. The United States is encircling China with a network of bases, with ballistic missiles, battle groups, nuclear -armed bombers.

This lethal arc extends from Australia to the islands of the Pacific, the Marianas and the Marshalls and Guam, to the Philippines, Thailand, Okinawa, Korea and  across Eurasia to Afghanistan and India. America has hung a noose around the neck of China. This is not news. Silence by media; war by media.

Hillary Clinton is shaping up as quite likely to be the next US president.

In the 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton threatened to “totally obliterate” Iran with nuclear weapons. As Secretary of State under Obama, she participated in the overthrow of the democratic government of Honduras. Her contribution to the destruction of Libya in 2011 was almost gleeful. When the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, was publicly sodomised with a knife – a murder made possible by American logistics – Clinton gloated over his death: “We came, we saw, he died.”

Among Clinton’s biggest backers are the Israel lobby and the arms companies that fuel the violence in the Middle East. She and her husband have received a fortune from Wall Street. And yet, she is about to be ordained the women’s candidate, to see off the evil Trump, the official demon.

Is Pilger close to being accurate? If so there are some real concerns – for the world.

What has happened to the great tradition of popular direct action, unfettered to parties? Where is the courage, imagination and commitment required to begin the long journey to a better, just and peaceful world? Where are the dissidents in art, film, the theatre, literature?

Where are those who will shatter the silence? Or do we wait until the first nuclear missile is fired?

Should we be worried?

Gay couples versus Trump

“If you want to worry about the world imploding worry about nuclear weapons and climate change not gay couples.” @jacindaardern

What’s the biggest risk – a gay couple getting married, or Donald Trump in charge of the biggest nuclear arsenal on earth that is capable of destroying everything and all of us?