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Tuesday, August 25, 2020

What's Going On In The World Today 200824



The Limits to a U.S.-China Financial Divorce

Political and regulatory risks of investing in Chinese companies are increasing as the United States ramps up efforts to "decouple" its financial system from Beijing, including the White House's latest push to delist Chinese firms from U.S. exchanges. But given the sheer size of the U.S.-China financial relationship, which totals as much as $4 trillion (or 11 percent of the two countries' combined GDP), such efforts will see only limited success — keeping the world's two biggest economies linked for the foreseeable future...


Nile dam: Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan resume African Union-led talks
The three nations agree to present proposals on management of Ethiopia's controversial $4bn dam within two days.

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita announced early on Wednesday that he is resigning from his post saying that he does not wish blood to be shed following a military mutiny that plunged the country into a political crisis.

"Today, certain parts of the military have decided that intervention was necessary. Do I really have a choice? Because I do not wish blood to be shed," Keita said in a brief statement broadcast on national television.

Keita said that he has decided "to give up my duty from now on."

It is unclear if the military is now officially in charge of the country.

Earlier, Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse were detained by soldiers in a dramatic escalation of a months-long crisis in the country...


A More Assertive China Drives Japan to Respond in Kind

Japan has long operated beyond the pacifist constraints of its post-war constitution, but a growing and more assertive China is accelerating Tokyo's development of offensive its capabilities. Japan's core strategic imperatives are shaped by economic concerns — the islands are resource-poor and thus import-dependent. This shaped its post-World War II Yoshida Doctrine, in which Japan largely outsourced its national security to the United States while focusing its energy on economic development at home. With Japan less confident in its dependence on the United States, the same vulnerability is now driving Tokyo to take on a more active role in its neighborhood. Japan's increased economic and security engagement in the Indo-Pacific provides a regional alternative to China for Southeast Asian nations, but may raise tensions with neighboring South Korea.

Moving Beyond the Yoshida Doctrine

Just as Chinese President Xi Jinping has moved China past Deng Xiaoping's doctrine, which called for China to avoid showing its strength while it rebuilt internal power, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sought to move beyond the strategy Japan adopted under its postwar prime minister, Shigeru Yoshida. Though several factors have shaped Japan's defense evolution, today Tokyo is driven by the changes in Chinese international behavior and the growth of Chinese power. China's economy has far surpassed Japan's, leaving the island nation a distant third behind the United States and China in national GDP. China is rapidly increasing its technological capabilities, challenging Japan in traditional areas of strength, from semiconductors to high-speed rail. China has increased its investment and trade footprint throughout the region via its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), supplanting earlier Japanese soft power gains.

China's navy development over the past decade has outstripped Japan's, and the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) now operates freely in the East and South China Seas, as well as into the West Pacific. Chinese construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea, along with the Philippines' rebalance away from the United States toward China, raises the risk of interrupting vital Japanese maritime supply lines. Chinese port development and investment stretching through Southeast and South Asia and into East Africa also create additional areas where China could interfere with Japanese supply lines...

Carrier Ronald Reagan heads back into the South China Sea

The aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan and its strike group returned to the restive South China Sea Friday for a series of maritime air defense operations. The Japan-based carrier was last in the disputed waters in mid-July when it conducted dual-carrier ops with the carrier Nimitz. Earlier in July, the carrier strike groups and an Air Force B-52 Stratofortress from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana conducted a maritime integration exercise in the South China Sea. Training that began Friday also involved the guided-missile cruiser Antietam and the destroyers Mustin and Rafael Peralta, as well as Carrier Air Wing 5.

US finalizes sale of 66 F-16 fighters to Taiwan as China tensions escalate

Taiwan will receive 66 new American-made F-16 fighter jets in the biggest arms sale to the self-governing island in years. The deal finalized on Friday comes as China has been increasing pressure on the island, which Beijing considers to be an inseparable part of its territory. Friday's announcement was made on the website of United States Defense Department, under the contacts updated section. The posting said the US Air Force was awarding a contract to Lockheed Martin, the maker of the F-16, for 90 of the planes as part of US foreign military sales...

China Says Latest US Sailing Near Taiwan 'Extremely Dangerous'

China's military said on Wednesday the latest U.S. Navy sailing near Chinese-claimed Taiwan was "extremely dangerous" and stirring up such trouble was in neither country's interests. The U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin sailed through the narrow and sensitive Taiwan Strait on Tuesday, the U.S. navy said, in what have become relatively routine trips in recent months, though they always anger China. The Eastern Theatre Command of China's People's Liberation Army said its air and naval forces followed and monitored the U.S. ship throughout its voyage. "Any words or deeds that ... cause trouble in the Taiwan Strait are not in line with the fundamental interests of China and the United States, harm the well-being of compatriots on both sides of the strait, pose real threats to peace and stability in the region and are extremely dangerous," it said...




Jalisco cartel adopts new tactic: drones armed with C-4 explosive

More evidence has surfaced to indicate the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) is using drones armed with C4 explosives to attack its enemies. A citizens’ militia group in Tepalcatepec, Michoacán, reports finding two drones inside an armored car that cartel hitmen had abandoned after an attempted raid on the city, which borders Jalisco, on July 25. The C4 was packed with ball bearings to serve as shrapnel in Tupperware-like containers that were equipped with a remote detonation system and duct-taped to the drones, militia members explained. The drones were found in a cardboard box that was soaked in blood, indicating to the militia members that whoever was intending to fly the drones was injured before they could be launched.


Afghans halt prisoner release, delaying talks with Taliban

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan government said Monday it would not release the last 320 Taliban prisoners it is holding until the insurgents free more captured soldiers, defying a traditional council held last week and further delaying intra-Afghan talks sought by the United States.

The talks, which were laid out in a peace deal signed between the United States and the Taliban in February, were expected to begin on Thursday but are now postponed indefinitely.

The ruling by the traditional council, or jirga, which called for the immediate release of the Taliban prisoners, had raised hopes of a breakthrough in the process.

The U.S.-Taliban peace deal called on the Taliban to free 1,000 government and military personnel and for the government to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners. The prisoner releases were to be a goodwill gesture ahead of intra-Afghan negotiations aimed at devising a postwar roadmap...


Don’t Discount the Dollar Yet

China may want to displace the dollar with the yuan as the global reserve currency, but its actions are leading to the opposite.

If some stories are easier to tell than others, the decline of the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency is one of them. It’s not hard to see why. The cast of characters that avail themselves for the script includes international trade, financial architecture, great-power competition, cycles of history, and even parables from ancient Greece.

And on cue, the headlines are again churning out new versions of the familiar fable. New plot lines include the economic fallout of a global pandemic as well as a “capital war” between the United States and China, in which Washington usurps Beijing’s traditionally lonely role as the imposer of the restrictions on how capital can move between their two countries, frightening global investors, who then forsake the fallen dollar. Taken at face value, the headlines suggest that the dollar’s long-awaited dethroning may be here at last.

The Chinese Communist Party is the latest in a motley crew of conspirators serving, unwittingly, to prevent the dollar’s status.

But the economic forces that thwarted any demise of the dollar in the past persist. They continue to render any end to the dollar’s reserve status today unlikely. In fact, there is a new player keeping it on its throne: the Chinese Communist Party. It’s the latest arrival to the motley crew of conspirators serving, unwittingly, to prevent the currency from leaving its seat.

The dollar can’t be displaced with nothing, and mainland China’s currency, the yuan, was once the most-viable something. Global banks planned for it to “inevitably” replace the dollar. Economists speculated about the timing. The country’s growing economy, after all, is the world’s second largest. And Beijing is keen to take steps intended to promote its currency’s use in international trade. Officials in the world’s third-largest economy, the European Union, may voice similar intentions. But Beijing is not dealing in the currency of a monetary union that, according to research at its own central bank, maybe shouldn’t even exist. “Overall economic structures in euro area countries,” economists at the European Central Bank concluded in 2019, “are still not fully commensurate with the requirements of a monetary union...”


US intelligence indicates Iran paid bounties to Taliban for targeting American troops in Afghanistan

Washington (CNN) — US intelligence agencies assessed that Iran offered bounties to Taliban fighters for targeting American and coalition troops in Afghanistan, identifying payments linked to at least six attacks carried out by the militant group just last year alone, including a suicide bombing at a US air base in December, CNN has learned.

"Bounties" were paid by a foreign government, identified to CNN as Iran, to the Haqqani network -- a terrorist group that is led by the second highest ranking leader of the Taliban -- for their attack on Bagram Air Base on December 11, which killed two civilians and injured more than 70 others, including four US personnel, according to a Pentagon briefing document reviewed by CNN.

The name of the foreign government that made these payments remains classified but two sources familiar with the intelligence confirmed to CNN that it refers to Iran...






N.K. owns up to 60 nuclear bombs, world's third-largest amount of chemical agents...

North Korea is believed to have up to 60 nuclear bombs and the world's third-largest stockpile of chemical weapons totaling up to 5,000 tons, the U.S. Army has said. The U.S. Department of the Army headquarters made the assessment in its report, titled "North Korean tactics," which was published last month, saying Pyongyang is unlikely to give up these weapons to ensure the regime's survival. "Estimates for North Korean nuclear weapons range from 20-60 bombs, with the capability to produce 6 new devices each year," the U.S. military said, noting that some reports state that the regime could obtain as many as 100 by the end of this year...




Israel, UAE: Flurry of Agreements Follows Normalization Announcement

What Happened: Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed a series of agreements to allow phone calls between the two countries, unblock websites and collaborate on COVID-19 research, MiddleEastEye reported Aug. 17. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also announced that Israel is preparing for eventual direct flights to the United Arab Emirates.

Why It Matters: News of these agreements comes just days after Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced that they would normalize relations, and it is likely that further trade and investment deals will be signed in the coming weeks. The announcement of possible direct flights increases the focus on Saudi Arabia, as any agreement would require Saudi Arabia to open its airspace to Israeli airlines. So far, Saudi Arabia has neither issued a strident condemnation of the normalization process nor supported it, suggesting that Saudi Arabia may continue its tacit ties with Israel and facilitate certain ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, while not pursuing normalization itself. Saudi Arabia could also lean on Bahrain, a close ally, to facilitate ties with Israel.

Background: Beyond the Persian Gulf, other countries reportedly considering normalization with Israel include Morocco and Sudan. Oman and Bahrain are also close to Israel and may soon normalize some ties. Qatar has strong working ties with Israel, but its posture as a champion of the Palestinian cause may cause Doha to pursue a different path than full normalization.

In Syria, the Specter of an Expanded U.S. Mission Reemerges

A skirmish in northeast Syria indicates the United States remains willing to respond with proportional force to increased harassment from President Bashar al-Assad's regime, as Damascus and its Russian allies seek ways to incentivize the withdrawal of U.S. troops. On Aug. 17, U.S. forces reportedly engaged with Syrian troops at a Syrian-run checkpoint near the town of Qamishli in the country's far northeast. The U.S. military is investigating the cause of the skirmish, though the engagement happened amid escalating tensions between Syrian forces and the remaining U.S. patrols in the country following the White House's repeated attempts to reduce its military presence...

Trump Administration Pushes Arms Sale to U.A.E. Despite Israeli Worries

The Trump White House is quietly planning sales of F-35 stealth fighters and advanced drones to the Emiratis as part of a wider plan to realign the Middle East, but Israel and Congress may object.

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has accelerated a push to sell the F-35 stealth fighter and advanced armed drones to the United Arab Emirates, at a time when the Gulf nation is working with the Trump administration on a historic plan to formalize diplomatic ties with Israel, according to American officials familiar with the discussions.

Administration officials in recent weeks gave a classified briefing about the F-35 to the Emirati military — despite some concerns among National Security Council staff about the wisdom of disclosing details on one of the Pentagon’s most advanced weapons to a foreign government before a decision about a potential arms sale has been completed.

American officials deny that the new push to sell the advanced weapons is a direct reward for the Emirati role in a diplomatic breakthrough, announced by President Trump last week, where the Emirates would become just the third Arab nation to recognize Israel. In exchange, Israel will suspend annexation of occupied West Bank territory...




Former CIA and FBI Employee Charged with Providing Government Secrets to China

A 67-year-old former CIA officer and FBI linguist was arrested Friday after allegedly selling U.S. government secrets to China for thousands of dollars spanning multiple years, court documents unsealed Monday reveal. Alexander Yuk Ching Ma was formally charged with conspiracy to communicate national defense information to assist a foreign government, the Justice Department said in a press release. If convicted, he’ll face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. “This serious act of espionage is another example in a long string of illicit activities that the People's Republic of China is conducting within and against the United States,” Alan Kohler Jr., assistant director of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division said in a statement, echoing recently increasing sentiments of government and Trump administration officials accusing China of national and trade secret theft...




US, Russia still at odds over new nuclear arms treaty

The United States and Russia concluded two days of arms control talks Tuesday with the two sides still at odds over the U.S. demand to include China in any new treaty but showing signs of a possible willingness to extend the existing New START deal, which expires next year. ... The U.S. argues that any new nuclear arms limitation treaty should cover all types of warheads, include better verification protocols and transparency measures, and be extended to include China, which has been increasing its own arsenal. China has rejected the idea as an American ploy to avoid a new deal and said that it would gladly participate if the U.S. would agree to nuclear parity among all nations. China was invited to participate in the Vienna talks but did not send a delegation. Russia, meanwhile, has said that if China is part of a new treaty, Britain and France should also be included...

Army Street Gang Activity Is Increasing, Internal Report Shows

The most recent report from the Army on street and outlaw motorcycle gang activity in the ranks shows both trending upward, while incidents of domestic extremism remain roughly constant. An internal report, obtained by Military.com through a Freedom of Information Act request, shows that gang members were tied to dozens of Army felony law enforcement reports and more than 100 criminal investigations in fiscal 2018, the latest year for which data is available. While these reports and investigations make up less than 1% of all Army law enforcement incidents, the new report shows that the little-discussed problem of military gang activity continues to be a headache for base commanders and other service leaders.... That increase holds true across categories: Street gang activity shows a 68% year-over-year increase, from 38 to 64 incidents, while outlaw motorcycle gangs had a 60% increase, from 10 to 16 incidents. Domestic extremist events remained few, increasing from 2 to 3 year over year.

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