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Trump on North Korea: 'We're prepared for anything'

WASHINGTON, Oct 22: President Donald Trump boasted that the US is "prepared for anything" when it comes to the North Korea nuclear crisis and emphasized the importance of China's role during an interview with Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo broadcast on Sunday morning.

Trump said he believes Chinese President Xi Jinping has "the power to do something very significant with respect to North Korea."

But no matter Xi's actions, Trump said the United States is "prepared for anything" when it comes to North Korea.

"We'll see what happens. ... We are so prepared, like you wouldn't believe," he said.

Trump further praised China's actions on North Korea, adding that he and Xi have an "exceptional relationship."

"They have been helping us," Trump said. "They're closing off their banking systems to North Korea. They have cut the oil way down. Now, the banking systems we can see, because they all come through (the United States) as you know."

But the President maintained that though China is assisting in keeping North Korea's aggressions at bay, the United States has their own preparations underway.

"You would be shocked to see how totally prepared we are if we need to be," he added.
"Would it be nice not to do that? The answer is yes. Will that happen? Who knows, who knows, Maria."

Previously Trump has criticized China for not doing enough to rein in North Korea.

Tillerson sets tone for 100-year India-US ties, chides China and Pakistan

WASHINGTON, Oct 18: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in his first major India-policy speech set the tone of the bilateral relationship between India and the US for 100 years, a State Department official said, observing that the talk had many audiences, including China.

"China's obviously an audience of the speech. But this is a speech, obviously, which we hope all countries in the Indo-Pacific region will take to heart, that the Secretary and the President has placed a priority," a State Department official told reporters.

He was speaking after Tillerson described India as an opportunity for the US.

"It's a speech that was designed for many audiences," the official said.

Noting that a free and open Indo-Pacific is a priority for both the President and the Secretary of State, the official said, because India is one of the anchors of an Indo-Pacific strategy, the Trump Administration wants to devote a lot of time to this country.

Tillerson is travelling to India next week. President Donald Trump is scheduled to travel to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and Philippines next month.

"So that's the reason for the speech today; there are many audiences for this. But we really view this as a speech with a global audience," the official said.

The speech on US-India relations for the next hundred years to implement President Trump's new strategy for South Asia is a culmination of several months of deliberation within the national security cabinet on the best approach to address challenges in South Asia and on the opportunities.

"The Trump Administration considers India as an opportunity and he wanted to present extended remarks and reflections on many ways that US can deepen its ties with India for the next hundred years, and how it is a critical component to a free and open Indo-Pacific," the official said.

"There is a lot of bilateral benefits that follow deepening economic, cultural, diplomatic, and security ties with India. But there are a range of benefits that also follow for the region, the Indo-Pacific region," the State Department official said.

China has risen alongside India, but China has done so less responsibly and China has undermined the international rules-based order while countries like India operate within this rules-based order, the official said.

"We obviously want constructive relations with China. The Secretary is in regular contact with the Chinese leadership. But we are not going to shrink or ignore China's challenges to the rules-based order, or where China subverts the sovereignty of neighbouring countries," the official said.

"What we like is for many decades, the US has supported Chinas rise, we have also supported India's rise, but those two countries have risen very differently," the official said.

As Tillerson said about the shared values, shared security, shared national security interests, shared economies, shared democracies, this is a great friendship that US wants to expand and deepen on all areas.

The official argued that there are good reasons bilaterally for the US and India to deepen its ties, but there are opportunities to grow the connectivity in the region.

Referring to the India-US and Japan tri-lateral in New York last month, the official said Japan is very supportive of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

"I've had many consultations with the Japanese about this. We have also talked with the Australians, and we envision a quadrilateral sort of — an anchoring the Indo- Pacific anchored by these four countries of Australia, the US, India, and Japan, he said.

While the speech was mostly about India, the subtitle of the speech was "The Foundations of a Free and Open Indo- Pacific."

"So that's what he talked about, including financing mechanisms, and he did talk about some of the predatory economics that we see in the area, and you have countries that are looking for better financing mechanisms and better partners, and we believe that countries like the US and India are those partners," the official said.

Trump celebrates Diwali at White House, hails contributions of Indian-Americans

WASHINGTON, Oct 18: US President Donald Trump has celebrated his first Diwali at the White House during which he hailed the incredible contributions of the Indian-American community and said he valued his very strong relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Trump and his daughter Ivanka was joined by senior Indian-American members of his administration including Nikki Haley, his Ambassador to the United Nations and Seema Verma, Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Ajit Pai, Chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission and Raj Shah, Trump’s Principal Deputy Press Secretary also joined Diwali celebrations.

“As we do (celebrate Diwali) so, we especially remember the People of India, the home of the Hindu faith, who have built the world’s largest democracy,” Mr. Trump said in a Facebook post along with a video of his Diwali celebrations inside the Oval Office.

Trump said he greatly valued his “very strong relationship” with Prime Minister Modi.

Trump said he was deeply honoured to be joined by so many administration officials and leaders of the Indian-American community in celebrating Diwali — the festival of lights.

In his remarks, Trump said Indian-American neighbours and friends have made incredible contributions to the country — and to the world.

“You have made extraordinary contributions to art, science, medicine, business and education. America is especially thankful for its many Indian-American citizens who serve bravely in our armed forces and as first responders in communities throughout our great land,” he said.

“Today, we proudly celebrate this holiday in the people’s house. In so doing, we reaffirm that Indian-Americans and Hindu-Americans are truly cherished, treasured and beloved members of our great American family,” Trump added.

Diwali, he said, is one of the most important celebrations in the Hindu religion.

“A time of peace and prosperity for the New Year, it is a tradition that is held dear by more than 1 billion Hindus worldwide and more than 2 million Hindus in the United States.

It is also celebrated by millions of Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains in America, India and around the world,” he said.

“Happy Diwali to those celebrating with friends and family. May we all strive for peace, prosperity and the triumph of light over darkness,” US Vice President Mike Pence said in a tweet.

“Wishing Hindus, Sikhs and Jains around the world a joyful Diwali. Saal Mubarak to all! Looking forward to my visit to India for GES2017,” Ivanka tweeted along with a picture of President Trump celebrating festival of lights in the Oval Office of the White House on Tuesday.

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen wished her friends in Southern Florida celebrating the Festival of Lights a very Happy Diwali.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio sent his Diwali greetings.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson started his major India policy speech by sending Diwali greetings to all friends in the US, India and around the world celebrating the Festival of Lights.

“Generally, fireworks accompany that. I don’t need any fireworks; I’m getting too many fireworks around me already. So we’ll forgo the fireworks,” he said, amidst laughter from a Washington audience.

America’s top corporate leadership too joined the festivities.

“Happy Diwali! May the festival of lights spread love, peace & prosperity to all!” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a tweet.

“Today, let’s light up the world with the glow of our diyas and the warmth in our hearts. From my family to yours, best wishes for Diwali!” tweeted Pepsico Chairwoman Indra Nooyi.

The tradition of Diwali celebration at the White House was first started by President George Bush.

During his term it was celebrated mostly in the India Treaty Room of the adjacent executive office building, which is part of the White House complex.

President Bush never personally participated in the White House Diwali celebrations.

In the first year of his presidency, former president Barack Obama lit the ceremonial Diya in the East Room of the White House.

In his last year in office in 2016, Obama for the first time observed the festival of lights in the Oval Office.

Tillerson Remarks on "Defining Our Relationship with India for the Next Century"

Washington, Oct 18: Here is text of the speech of US Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson:

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, thank you so much, John, and it is a real pleasure to be back in the building. And I was asking John if the building was meeting all the expectations that we had when this project was undertaken, and I see so many faces in the room that were a big part of bringing this to a reality. I think he told me there’s four simultaneous events going on today, and I said, “Perfect. That’s exactly what we had in mind.”
So I also want to thank many of you in the room for the 11 years, great years I had serving on the board of trustees here, and your mentorship of me. And I learned so much during the time I was here in those engagements. And I thank John for his friendship. He was a dear friend throughout that time. And it really has been important to my ability to do what I’ve been asked to do to serve the country. So again, it is a real pleasure to be here, and thankful for the opportunity to be back in this building.

So first, let me wish everyone a happy Diwali to all our friends in the United States, in India, around the world who are celebrating the Festival of Lights. Generally, fireworks accompany that. I don’t need any fireworks; I’m getting too many fireworks around me already. (Laughter.) So we’ll forgo the fireworks.

My relationship with India dates back to about 1998, so almost 20 years now, when I began working on issues related to India’s energy security. And I’ve had many trips to the country, obviously, over those many years. And it was a real privilege to do business with the Indian counterparts then, and it’s been a great honor this year to work with the Indian leaders as Secretary of State. And I do look forward to returning to Delhi next week for the first time in my official capacity. This visit could not come at a more promising time for U.S.-Indian relations and the U.S.-India partnership.

As many of you know, this year marks the 70th anniversary of relations between our two countries. When President Truman welcomed then-Prime Minister Nehru on his visit to Washington, he said, and I quote, “Destiny willed that our country should have been discovered in the search for a new route to yours.” I hope your visit, too, will be in a sense of discovery of the United States of America.

The Pacific and the Indian Oceans have linked our nations for centuries. Francis Scott Key wrote what would become our national anthem while sitting aboard the HMS Minden, a ship that was built in India.

As we look to the next 100 years, it is vital that the Indo-Pacific, a region so central to our shared history, continue to be free and open, and that’s really the theme of my remarks to you this morning.

President Trump and Prime Minister Modi are committed, more than any other leaders before them, to building an ambitious partnership that benefits not only our two great democracies, but other sovereign nations working toward greater peace and stability.

Prime Minister Modi’s visit in June highlighted the many areas of cooperation that are already underway in this new area of our strategic relationship.

Our defense ties are growing. We are coordinating our counterterrorism efforts more than ever before. And earlier this month, a shipment of American crude oil arrived in India, a tangible illustration of our expanding energy cooperation. The Trump administration is determined to dramatically deepen ways for the United States and India to further this partnership.

For us today, it’s plain to see why this matters. India represents the world’s largest democracy. The driving force of our close relationship rests in the ties between our peoples – our citizens, business leaders, and our scientists.

Nearly 1.2 million American visitors traveled to India last year. More than 166,000 Indian students are studying in the United States. And nearly 4 million Indian Americans call the United States home, contributing to their communities as doctors, engineers, and innovators, and proudly serving their country in uniform.

As our economies grow closer, we find more opportunities for prosperity for our people. More than 600 American companies operate in India. U.S. foreign direct investment has jumped by 500 percent in the past two years alone. And last year, our bilateral trade hit a record of roughly $115 billion, a number we plan to increase.

Together, we have built a sturdy foundation of economic cooperation as we look for more avenues of expansion. The announcement of the first Global Entrepreneurship Summit ever to be hosted in South Asia, to take place in Hyderabad next month, is a clear example of how President Trump and Prime Minister Modi are promoting innovation, expanding job opportunities, and finding new ways to strengthen both of our economies.

When our militaries conduct joint exercises, we send a powerful message as to our commitment to protecting the global commons and defending our people. This year’s Malabar exercise was our most complex to date. The largest vessels from American, Indian, and Japanese navies demonstrated their power together in the Indian Ocean for the first time, setting a clear example of the combined strength of the three Indo-Pacific democracies. We hope to add others in coming years.

In keeping with India’s status as a Major Defense Partner – a status overwhelmingly endorsed last year by the U.S. Congress – and our mutual interest in expanding maritime cooperation, the Trump administration has offered a menu of defense options for India’s consideration, including the Guardian UAV. We value the role India can play in global security and stability and are prepared to ensure they have even greater capabilities.

And over the past decade, our counterterrorism cooperation has expanded significantly. Thousands of Indian security personnel have trained with American counterparts to enhance their capacity. The United States and India are cross-screening known and suspected terrorists, and later this year we will convene a new dialogue on terrorist designations.

In July, I signed the designation of Hizbul Mujahideen as a Foreign Terrorist Organization because the United States and India stand shoulder-to-shoulder against terrorism. States that use terror as an instrument of policy will only see their international reputation and standing diminish. It is the obligation, not the choice, of every civilized nation to combat the scourge of terrorism. The United States and India are leading this effort in that region.

But another more profound transformation that’s taking place, one that will have far-reaching implications for the next 100 years: The United States and India are increasingly global partners with growing strategic convergence.

Indians and Americans don’t just share an affinity for democracy. We share a vision of the future.

The emerging Delhi-Washington strategic partnership stands upon a shared commitment upholding the rule of law, freedom of navigation, universal values, and free trade. Our nations are two bookends of stability – on either side of the globe – standing for greater security and prosperity for our citizens and people around the world.

The challenges and dangers we face are substantial. The scourge of terrorism and the disorder sown by cyber attacks threaten peace everywhere. North Korea’s nuclear weapons tests and ballistic missiles pose a clear and imminent threat to the security of the United States, our Asian allies, and all other nations.

And the very international order that has benefited India’s rise – and that of many others – is increasingly under strain.

China, while rising alongside India, has done so less responsibly, at times undermining the international, rules-based order even as countries like India operate within a framework that protects other nations’ sovereignty.

China’s provocative actions in the South China Sea directly challenge the international law and norms that the United States and India both stand for.

The United States seeks constructive relations with China, but we will not shrink from China’s challenges to the rules-based order and where China subverts the sovereignty of neighboring countries and disadvantages the U.S. and our friends.

In this period of uncertainty and somewhat angst, India needs a reliable partner on the world stage. I want to make clear: with our shared values and vision for global stability, peace, and prosperity, the United States is that partner.

And with India’s youth, its optimism, its powerful democratic example, and its increasing stature on the world stage, it makes perfect sense that the United States – at this time – should seek to build on the strong foundation of our years of cooperation with India. It is indeed time to double down on a democratic partner that is still rising – and rising responsibly – for the next 100 years.

But above all, the world – and the Indo-Pacific in particular – needs the United States and India to have a strong partnership.

India and the United States must, as the Indian saying goes, “do the needful.” (Laughter.)

Our two countries can be the voice the world needs to be, standing firm in defense of a rules-based order to promote sovereign countries’ unhindered access to the planet’s shared spaces, be they on land, at sea, or in cyberspace.

In particular, India and the United States must foster greater prosperity and security with the aim of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

The Indo-Pacific – including the entire Indian Ocean, the Western Pacific, and the nations that surround them – will be the most consequential part of the globe in the 21st century.

Home to more than three billion people, this region is the focal point of the world’s energy and trade routes. Forty percent of the world’s oil supply crisscrosses the Indian Ocean every day – through critical points of transit like the Straits of Malacca and Hormuz. And with emerging economies in Africa and the fastest growing economy and middle class in India, whole economies are changing to account for this global shift in market share. Asia’s share of global GDP is expected to surpass 50 percent by the middle of this century.

We need to collaborate with India to ensure that the Indo-Pacific is increasingly a place of peace, stability, and growing prosperity – so that it does not become a region of disorder, conflict, and predatory economics.

The world’s center of gravity is shifting to the heart of the Indo-Pacific. The U.S. and India – with our shared goals of peace, security, freedom of navigation, and a free and open architecture – must serve as the eastern and western beacons of the Indo-Pacific. As the port and starboard lights between which the region can reach its greatest and best potential.

First, we must grow with an eye to greater prosperity for our peoples and those throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

By the year 2050, India may boast the second largest economy in the world. India’s population – with a median age of 25 – is expected to surpass that of China’s within the next decade. Getting our economic partnership right is critical.

Economic growth flows from innovative ideas. Fortunately, there are no two countries that encourage innovation better than the United States and India. The exchange of technologies and ideas between Bangalore and Silicon Valley is changing the world.

Prosperity in the 21st century and beyond will depend on nimble problem solving that harnesses the power of markets and emerging innovations in the Indo-Pacific. This is where the United States and India have a tremendous competitive advantage.

Our open societies generate high-quality ideas at the speed of free thought. Helping regional partners establish similar systems will deliver solutions to 21st century problems.

For that to happen, greater regional connectivity is essential.

From Silk Routes to Grand Trunk Roads, South Asia was for millennia a region bound together by the exchange of goods, people, and ideas.

But today it is one of the least economically integrated regions in the world; intra-regional trade has languished – sitting at around 4 or 5 percent of total trade.

Compare that with ASEAN, where intra-regional trade stands at 25% of total trade.

The World Bank estimates that with barriers removed and streamlined customs procedures, intra-regional trade in South Asia would nearly quadruple from the current $28 billion to over $100 billion.

One of the goals of greater connectivity is providing nations in the Indo-Pacific the right options when it comes to sustainable development.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation is one model of how we can achieve it. The program is committed to data, accountability, and evidence-based decision-making to foster the right circumstances for private investment.

Last month, the United States and Nepal signed a $500 million compact agreement – the first with a South Asian nation – to invest in infrastructure to meet growing electricity and transportation needs in Nepal, and to promote more trade linkages with partners in the region, like India.

The United States and India must look for more opportunities to grow this connectivity and our own economic links, even as we look for more ways to facilitate greater development and growth for others in the region.

But for prosperity to take hold in the Indo-Pacific, security and stability are required. We must evolve as partners in this realm too.

For India, this evolution will entail fully embracing its potential as a leading player in the international security arena. First and foremost, this means building security capacity.

My good friend and colleague Secretary Mattis was in Delhi just last month to discuss this. We both eagerly look forward to the inaugural 2+2 dialogue, championed by President Trump and Prime Minister Modi, soon.

The fact that the Indian Navy was the first overseas user of the P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft, which it effectively fields with U.S. Navy counterparts, speaks volumes of our shared maritime interests and our need to enhance interoperability.

The proposals the United States has put forward, including for Guardian UAVs, aircraft carrier technologies, the Future Vertical Lift program, and F-18 and F-16 fighter aircraft, are all potential game changers for our commercial and defense cooperation.

The United States military’s record for speed, technology, and transparency speaks for itself – as does our commitment to India’s sovereignty and security. Security issues that concern India are concerns of the United States.

Secretary Mattis has said the world’s two greatest democracies should have the two greatest militaries. I couldn’t agree more.

When we work together to address shared security concerns, we don’t just protect ourselves, we protect others.

Earlier this year, instructors from the U.S. and Indian Armies came together to build a UN peacekeeping capacity among African partners, a program that we hope to continue expanding. This is a great example of the U.S. and India building security capacity and promoting peace in third countries – and serving together as anchors of peace in a very tumultuous world.

And as we implement President Trump’s new South Asia strategy, we will turn to our partners to ensure greater stability in Afghanistan and throughout the region. India is a partner for peace in Afghanistan and we welcome their assistance efforts.

Pakistan, too, is an important U.S. partner in South Asia. Our relationships in the region stand on their own merits. We expect Pakistan to take decisive action against terrorist groups based within their own borders that threaten their own people and the broader region. In doing so, Pakistan furthers stability and peace for itself and its neighbors, and improves its own international standing.

Even as the United States and India grow our own economic and defense cooperation, we must have an eye to including other nations which share our goals. India and the United States should be in the business of equipping other countries to defend their sovereignty, build greater connectivity, and have a louder voice in a regional architecture that promotes their interests and develops their economies. This is a natural complement to India’s “Act East” policy.

We ought to welcome those who want to strengthen the rule of law and further prosperity and security in the region.

In particular, our starting point should continue to be greater engagement and cooperation with Indo-Pacific democracies.

We are already capturing the benefits of our important trilateral engagement between the U.S., India, and Japan. As we look ahead, there is room to invite others, including Australia, to build on the shared objectives and initiatives.

India can also serve as a clear example of a diverse, dynamic, and pluralistic country to others – a flourishing democracy in the age of global terrorism. The sub-continent is the birthplace of four of the world’s major religions, and India’s diverse population includes more than 170 million Muslims – the third-largest Muslim population in the world. Yet we do not encounter significant number of Indian Muslims among foreign fighters in the ranks of ISIS or other terrorist groups, which speaks to the strength of Indian society. The journey of a democracy is never easy, but the power of India’s democratic example is one that I know will continue to strengthen and inspire others around the world.

In other areas, we are long overdue for greater cooperation. The more we expand cooperation on issues like maritime domain awareness, cybersecurity, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, the more the nations in the Indo-Pacific will benefit.

We also must recognize that many Indo-Pacific nations have limited alternatives when it comes to infrastructure investment programs and financing schemes, which often fail to promote jobs or prosperity for the people they claim to help. It’s time to expand transparent, high-standard regional lending mechanisms – tools that will actually help nations instead of saddle them with mounting debt.

India and the United States must lead the way in growing these multilateral efforts.

We must do a better job leveraging our collective expertise to meet common challenges, while seeking even more avenues of cooperation to tackle those that are to come. There is a need and we must meet the demand.

The increasing convergence of U.S. and Indian interests and values offers the Indo-Pacific the best opportunity to defend the rules-based global system that has benefited so much of humanity over the past several decades.

But it also comes with a responsibility – for both of our countries to “do the needful” in support of our united vision of a free, open, and thriving Indo-Pacific.

The United States welcomes the growing power and influence of the Indian people in this region and throughout the world. We are eager to grow our relationship even as India grows as a world leader and power.

The strength of the Indo-Pacific has always been the interaction among many peoples, governments, economies, and cultures. The United States is committed to working with any nation in South Asia or the broader region that shares our vision of an Indo-Pacific where sovereignty is upheld and a rules-based system is respected.

It is time we act on our vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, supported and protected by two strong pillars of democracy – the United States and India. Thank you for your kind attention.

(Applause.)

MR HAMRE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. We’re going to move this down so people over here can see. We’ve got a blocking vector.

Thank you for really a very interesting speech. One particular phrase really caught my attention. I’d like to just drill in a little bit on it, and I had the luxury of seeing it last night, so this is why I wrote it down. (Laughter.) “We need to collaborate with India to ensure the Indo-Pacific is increasingly a pace – a place of peace, stability, and growing prosperity so that it does not become a region of disorder, conflict, and predatory economics.” Very interesting expression. Would you – what do you see as being the example of predatory economics that we should be alert to ourselves between us?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, I think everyone is aware of the huge needs in the Indo-Pacific region among a number of emerging economies, a number of fledgling democracies for infrastructure investment, and it is important that those emerging democracies and economies have alternative means of developing both the infrastructure they need but also developing the economies. We have watched the activities and actions of others in the region, in particular China, and the financing mechanisms it brings to many of these countries which result in saddling them with enormous levels of debt. They don’t often create the jobs, which infrastructure projects should be tremendous job creators in these economies, but too often, foreign workers are brought in to execute these infrastructure projects. Financing is structured in a way that makes it very difficult for them to obtain future financing, and oftentimes has very subtle triggers in the financing that results in financing default and the conversion of debt to equity.

So this is not a structure that supports the future growth of these countries. We think it’s important that we begin to develop some means of countering that with alternative financing measures, financing structures. And during the East Asia Summit – Ministerial Summit in August, we began a quiet conversation with others about what they were experiencing, what they need, and we’re starting a quiet conversation in a multilateral way with: How can we create alternative financing mechanisms? We will not be able to compete with the kind of terms that China offers, and – but countries have to decide: What are they willing to pay to secure their sovereignty and their future control of their economies? And we’ve had those discussions with them, as well.

MR HAMRE: Secretary, just – that’s – that really helps open up a new understanding, that we all have to develop. And if I could just ask, this seems to be an asymmetry because you ran a big corporation. For you to raise capital for a major project, you’d have to go to public markets, the discipline of a public market, and yet you were competing against state-owned enterprises that could turn to a central bank and get a no-interest loan or maybe just a grant. I mean, this is a profound asymmetry that we have to deal with. It may go beyond just new financing instruments. How are you thinking about it?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, I think, in many respects, it is the case that has to be made to these countries that need the infrastructure financing that they really have to think about the long-term future of how do they want their country and their economies to develop. And in many respects, those were similar to the kinds of discussions and arguments that we would make back in my private sector days, that here are all the other benefits you receive when you allow investment dollars to flow to you in this way: You retain your sovereign control, you retain complete control over the laws and the execution within your country. And that should have significant value to them as they’re thinking about the future. And so it is – while it is on a direct competitive basis, it’s hard to compete with someone who’s offering something on financial terms that are worth a few points on the lending side, but we have to help them put that in perspective of the longer-term ability to control their country, control the future of their country, control the development of their economy in a rules-based system. And that’s really what we’re promoting is you retain your sovereignty, you retain your commitment to a rules-based order, we will come with other options for you.

MR HAMRE: Great. Thank you. And I apologize. Ambassador Singh is here. He is running a very dynamic embassy. I want to make sure that you knew he was here, and I’m going to ask a question he would ask, but he’s not going to get to – (laughter) – and that is: I was in India in August and great enthusiasm in India about a growing relationship, but real frustration with the way in which we restrict India getting access to technology and this sort of thing. What – what would – this is the ambassador’s question: So how are you going to fix that?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, just so you know, he’s not shy. He’s asked the question. (Laughter.) So I mean, we’ve had discussion about it, and I touched on it briefly in the prepared remarks in designating India as a major defense partner and Congress’s affirmation of that.

I think as everyone appreciates, the U.S. has the finest fighting military force on the planet, first because of the quality of the men and women in uniform – all-volunteer force, but they’re also equipped with the greatest technologies and weapons systems that are unmatched by anyone else in the world. So that’s an enormous advantage to our military strength, so we don’t provide that lightly, and that’s why we have such rigorous review mechanisms when we get into technology transfer.

But having said that, our most important allies and partners have access to that, and India has been elevated to that level. And that’s why I touched on a couple of systems that are not offered to everyone. The Guardian UAV system is an extremely technological piece of kit that we now are making available, and we’re in discussions with India about other high-level weapons systems. And as I said, it’s all to improve their capabilities to play this important security role that we know that they want to play in the region. So we’re continuing to work through those systems in a very deliberate way while protecting America’s competitive advantage in this area.

MR HAMRE: I don’t know how close you all listen, but the Secretary had a remarkable invitation, which is for the U.S. and India to jointly take a larger leadership role together in Southeast Asia. It was quite an important statement. You also indicated that there would have to be an evolving architecture of coordination. You hinted that it could revolve around expanding the U.S.-Japan-India trilateral. You indicated maybe Australia. Does – is that going to be the architecture of America’s engagement in this new strategy?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, I think as you heard me say and if you think about the map – the Indo-Pacific all the way to the Western Coast of the United States, and that’s the part of the map we’re dealing with – India, this very significant and important democracy, pins one side of that map; Japan, another very important and strong democracy that we have very strong security relationships with, pinning this side of the map. But there’s an important part of the South Pacific that also we think needs an important pinpoint as well. Australia, another very strong and important strategic partner, ally to the U.S., has fought in every war and has fought alongside us. In every battle we’ve ever fought, the Australians have been there with us.

So we think there are some useful conversations to have in the current trilateral relationship, which is very strong and effective – the India-Japan-U.S. relationship. So we’re going to continue to explore how do we strengthen that architecture that really is – it is about this Indo-Pacific free and open policy that we have, and how do we pin that in the proper places with our strongest, most important allies, and how do we strengthen those in this multi-party arrangement. India-Australia relations, how can they be strengthened? It has to be in everyone’s interest, obviously. India has to see it in their interest. Japan has to see it in their interest.

But it is going to be an evolving process as to how we create the security architecture which keeps this free and open Indo-Pacific region, creates the opportunity for nations to protect their own sovereignty, to have the opportunity to conduct their economic affairs without being threatened by others. And that’s really what the architecture’s design is intended to do.

MR HAMRE: I’m going to turn back to you as an energy guy. And last week – last month, I should say, we had the Indian minister responsible for renewable energy was here, and this is a big push for India. Now, you’re not the Secretary of Energy, but you know a lot about it. How do you think we could expand cooperation on energy issues with India?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, there – I know there are any number of active programs within India. India has huge energy needs, not just from the direct supply of energy but also the infrastructure to distribute that energy and get it into – so that all Indians have access to that, both for their personal quality of life but also to support economic growth and expansion. And I know CSIS has some particular programs that are exploring that as well, and those are all, I think, important avenues and mechanisms.

The U.S. has a very important energy posture in terms of the technology that’s been developed here across the entire slate of energy choices from conventional to renewables and other forms of energy, and I think that’s the value of the relationship is within the U.S. business community and our entrepreneurs and our innovators, we have a large slate of opportunities we can offer in partnering with India to meet those needs, and we want to – we’re encouraging that. Again, we think the work that CSIS is doing is valuable in that regard as well to create those relationships to provide that. It’s another area of opportunity for U.S. businesses.

MR HAMRE: As our Indian friends complain rightly about the restrictiveness of technology, American companies complain about how hard it is to do business in India. How is that conversation going to enter into your discussions?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: It has its ups and downs. And in the 20 years I’ve dealt with India, I encountered these same frustrations. I think India has undertaken a number of important reforms, and we want to acknowledge that. I think it’s important that those efforts and that momentum be sustained. It’s easy to take a few actions, you get a few reforms in place, and then say okay, we’re done, let’s sit back. You’re never done. You’re never done. And that’s my message to India: You’re never done. Because the world around you is not sitting stagnant, and you have to continue to put in place the necessary conditions that is attractive, first, to Indian business, just your own internal business entities, but also then make it attractive for foreign investors to come to India and grow that economy.

I think an – one of my interesting early experiences with India was in the ‘90s India undertook very, very little foreign direct investment. It was a very closed system. They didn’t encourage companies to go out and invest overseas. And one of my first interactions was to facilitate the purchase of ONGC Videsh Limited, which is a very important Indian national oil company, acquiring 20 percent Sakhalin-1 project in Russia. And I put those parties together for a lot of reasons that served the interest of the people I represented at that time. But it was an interesting discussion. I had a lot of conversation with the Indians in that process because they were not used to investing overseas. That resulted in me going to a business conference in Goa.

A couple of years later they asked me to come over to meet with Indian businessmen that were being encouraged to invest overseas. Again, it was kind of a new thing for them. And I remember the last – we had a panel discussion, a lot of great questions. The last question I got, one of the Indian businessmen said, “If there’s one thing that we should always make sure we keep in our mind in investing overseas, what is it?” And I said to him, “It’s very simple. Choose your partners wisely.” Because in any venture you are going to have partners, and who you choose is going to determine your success.

I’ve carried that same most-important element in any relationship. I’ve always viewed that. And that’s the way we view the Indian-U.S. relationship now: Choose your partner wisely. We think we have wisely chosen a partner in India for the strategic relationship, but I think that process I have watched over the 20 years of India investing abroad helps India understand the conditions necessary to be successful back home, because when you have to encounter it as a foreign direct investor, suddenly you understand what’s important to success. You take that back home, and that helps you with your reforms back home.

We encourage India to continue the pathway towards reforms. There’s much more that needs to be done to really enhance the full economic value of what India has to offer.

QUESTION: I have about four or five questions that are all kind of clustered around the same issue, and that’s about the complex power geometry in this region. We’ve – India historically had close ties with Russia. China had close ties with Pakistan. We had – we tried to keep ties with both India and Pakistan. It’s a lot more complicated environment now. Could you just give your thoughts about India in this power geometry?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, our – my view, and I think it is the collective view within the U.S. Government as well, is as China has risen over the last 20-plus years now to take its rightful place as an economic power in the world, moving hundreds of millions of their people out of poverty into middle-class status, India too has been rising. And I commented on this again in the remarks. As we watch how these two very large nations are taking their place – rightful place in the global economy, they’ve gone about it in different ways, and I touched on that. And I think that’s why the U.S. now sees this as an important point in thinking about the next century of our relationships.

We’re going to have important relationships with China. We’ll never have the same relationship with China, a non-democratic society, that we can have with a major democracy.

And so I think what has evolved, and I would have to let the Indians – Indian Government speak for themselves, but I think as India has gone through this process of rise, it too has taken account of the circumstances around it and its own history of relationships, and how have those relationships served their advancement and how have they not served their advancement. And I think as a – as the world’s largest – one of the world’s largest democracies, the world’s largest democracy, it has said, I want to be a partner with another democracy; I don’t want to partner with these other countries that do not operate with the same values.

I think at the end of it, this relationship is built on shared values. That’s what has brought us together. Two very large important democracies want to share the same future and we have a shared vision for the future.

And I think that’s what’s changed over the last couple of – three decades. There’s been a real accounting, as I have observed it – a real accounting has been taken by the Indian Government of its past experiences and it’s decided, this is where we want to go.

MR HAMRE: Secretary, it’s – I know it’s not precisely the reason for your trip, but I think we have several questions. I’d have to ask you about Myanmar. You know there’s been an incredible humanitarian crisis with the Rohingya. Could you just share us your perspective on this?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, we’re extraordinarily concerned by what’s happening with the Rohingya in Burma. I’ve been in contact with Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the civilian side of the government. As you know, this is a power-sharing government that has emerged in Burma. We really hold the military leadership accountable for what’s happening with the Rohingya area.

What’s most important to us is that the world can’t just stand idly by and be witness to the atrocities that are being reported in the area. What we’ve encouraged the military to do is, first, we understand you have serious rebel/terrorist elements within that part of your country as well that you have to deal with, but you must be disciplined about how you deal with those, and you must be restrained in how you deal with those. And you must allow access in this region again so that we can get a full accounting of the circumstances. I think any of us that read this recent story in The New York Times, it just had to tear your heart out. It just had to break your heart to read this.

So we have been asking for access to the region. We’ve been able to get a couple of our people from our embassy into the region so we can begin to get our own firsthand account of what is occurring. We’re encouraging access for the aid agencies – the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, UN agencies to – so we can at least address some of the most pressing humanitarian needs, but more importantly, so we can get a full understanding of what is going on. Someone – if these reports are true, someone is going to be held to account for that.

And it’s up to the military leadership of Burma to decide what direction do they want to play in the future of Burma because we see Burma as an important emerging democracy. But this is a real test. It’s a real test of this power-sharing government as to how they’re going to deal with this very serious issue.

So we are deeply engaged. We’re engaged with others and we’re going to be engaged at the UN, ultimately, with the direction this takes.

MR HAMRE: Again, several questions: We’re dealing with Afghanistan and Afghanistan has complex geography, complex geopolitics, I should say, as well. The Indians have had a strong interest in what happens in Afghanistan, as does Pakistan, part of the backdrop here. Afghanistan – what are you going to be doing there?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, you heard the President’s announced his new policy towards – and it’s the South Asia strategy. Afghanistan is what people tend to focus on. But one of the differences in how we approach the challenge there, and it’s why it took a little longer for us to fully develop the policy, is we do see it as a regional issue. It’s not solely an Afghanistan issue.

And you solve Afghanistan by addressing the regional challenges. And Pakistan is an important element of that. India is an important element of how we achieve the ultimate objective, which is a stable Afghanistan which no longer serves as a platform for terrorist organizations. Our policy, quite simply, on terrorism is that we will deny terrorists the opportunity, the means, the location, the wherewithal, the financing, the ability to organize and carry out attacks against Americans at home and abroad, anywhere in the world. Well, clearly the threat to that policy finds its locus in many ways in Afghanistan. And so, to the extent we can remove that as an opportunity for terrorism in Afghanistan, the greatest beneficiaries are going to be Pakistan and Afghanistan. And India’s important role is in providing development assistance to Afghanistan as they move forward to create better economic conditions that provide for the needs of a very diverse ethnic group of people in Afghanistan. So it is about a commitment, a message to the Taliban and other elements that we’re not going anywhere. And so we’ll be here as long as it takes for you to change your mind and decide you want to engage with the Afghan Government in a reconciliation process and develop a form of government that does suit the needs of the culture of Afghanistan.

And to the Afghan Government, they have to be committed to being open to addressing the full needs of the very ethnically diverse culture that exists in the country and its own history as well. And we think that is achievable and we can have a stable, peaceful Afghanistan. And when that happens, a big threat is removed from Pakistan’s future stability as well, which then creates a better condition for India-Pakistan relationships. So we see it as not just one issue, but a means of stabilizing the entire region. And we intend to work closely with India and with Pakistan to, we hope, ease tensions along their border as well.

Pakistan has two very troubled borders – two very troubled borders. And we’d like to help them take the tension down on both of those and secure a future stable Pakistan Government which we think improves relations in the region as well.

MR HAMRE: Secretary, I’m – I know I’m running close up to the deadline I was given by your horse holders, but let me ask – several questions were dealing with development, and I guess the question I’d like to pose to you is: We’ve got a very capable new administrator for USAID. I know you personally have been quite involved in aid and development-related issues through the years. What do you see as the relationship between the State Department and USAID going forward? How are you thinking about it?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, we – I think it’s no different than has traditionally been the roles of the two organizations. State Department develops foreign policy, it develops the strategies and the tactics, and an important element of our execution of foreign policy is development aid and assistance, whether it be in direct humanitarian assistance, food programs to address dire needs, disaster response, or whether it’s in developing democratic capacity and institutional capacity. So USAID is an important enablement tool of the foreign policy. They don’t make policy, but they are critical to our execution of foreign policy. And that’s really where we want that expertise to reside, and I view them as in many – using lingo of my prior life, they are a center of expertise when it comes to aid and development programs. Nobody does it better than they do; not just directly, but they have tremendous organizational and convening capacity to work through other multilateral organizations. Whether it’s UN organizations, NGOs, direct in-country capability, they are really the experts in the world for doing that. They have the relationships, they have the contacts, they have the process, they have the procedures and they’re vital to our execution of foreign policy. And therefore, they become integral to how we develop foreign policy, how we test its viability, and then how we lay out the plans, the strategy and the tactics for executing against that policy.

So that’s – that’s the relationship and one of the things we want to be sure is that everyone understands their roles and everyone understands what’s not their role. On the State Department side, our expertise is the analysis, the assessment, the development of foreign policy, the carrying of the diplomatic integration of all of that. USAID, though, they are really the experts and that we’re – the State Department doesn’t have that expertise. It really resides over there.

MR HAMRE: One last – I got a sign that said, “Last question.” Let me ask this last question and – in recent years, most secretaries of state have been policy people, they’ve spent their life in the policy world. But frankly, through the history of the department, we’ve had a great number of businesspeople that have been in. What is the – how do you think about the way that you can work with the private sector in advancing American diplomacy and American values around the world?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, I think one of the things that’s important for us is to make sure that we are – we have great clarity around what our policies are, what our strategies, what our tactics are so that investors, the business community, can at least make their assessment as they’re trying to make decisions about their own business conduct, private enterprise, whether it’s investment, foreign direct investment that they want to make, or whether it’s partnerships they’re creating for investment here in the U.S. It goes back to my earlier comment: Choose your partners wisely.

One of the things I think is important for us in the State Department to do is to be able to ensure we can provide clarity to the business community and to investors as to what the relationship is with a particular country, how we view the risk, the stability of that country. Those were things that were important to me in making decisions when I was in the private sector. It is a risk management decision. So how can we help everyone understand what the risks are in this country, but also what the vectors are? Do we think the vectors going in the right direction, or we have concerns that things could go in the wrong direction, and then the business leaders can make their own decisions about what they choose to do.

MR HAMRE: I think you all can see why I was so lucky for 11 years to have Secretary Tillerson on my board. He’s a wise and thoughtful man. Would you please thank him with your applause?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Thank you.

(Applause.)

US diplomacy with North Korea to continue until ‘first bomb drops’: Tillerson

WASHINGTON, Oct 15: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday that President Donald Trump had instructed him to continue diplomatic efforts to calm rising tensions with North Korea, saying “those diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops.”

Speaking on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’, Tillerson downplayed messages that President Trump had previously posted on Twitter suggesting Tillerson was wasting his time trying to negotiate with “Little Rocket Man”, a derogatory nickname Trump has coined for North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump “has made it clear to me to continue my diplomatic efforts”, Tillerson said.

Tillerson’s comments Sunday come amid soaring tensions between the United States and North Korea following a series of weapons tests by Pyongyang and a war of words between the two countries’ leaders.

North Korea has conducted a series of nuclear tests in recent weeks and launched two missiles over Japan.

Tillerson has been in talks with China to enlist its help on getting North Korea to back down.

But Trump’s recent Twitter messages appeared to undercut Tillerson’s efforts, prompting the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker to complain that Trump was publicly castrating Tillerson and hurting diplomatic talks.

Tillerson downplayed those tweets Sunday, telling CNN that Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping have an extremely close relationship and that China understands the U.S. position.

“Rest assured that the Chinese are not confused in any way” about the American policy towards North Korea, he added.

Pak took ‘tremendous advantage’ of US for years: Trump

TrumpWASHINGTON, Oct 14: President Donald Trump on Saturday said that Pakistan took “tremendous advantage” of the US over the years, but is now “starting to have a real” relationship.

Trump’s remarks came a day after Pakistan secured the release of an American-Canadian family from the clutches of the Haqqani terror network, five years after they were abducted.

“Yesterday, things happened with Pakistan,” said the US president.

“I have openly said Pakistan took tremendous advantage of our country for many years, but we’re starting to have a real relationship with Pakistan, and they’re to respect us as a nation again, and so are other nations,” Trump said.

“They are starting to respect the United States of America again,” he said and thanked the leaders of Pakistan for “what they’ve been doing”.

“In this administration, we will call evil by its name,” Trump said.

American citizen Caitlan Coleman and her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle along with their three children were rescued from the Haqqani network on Friday after an operation by Pakistani forces based on intelligence from the US authorities.

Trump had slammed Pakistan for its continued support to terrorist groups and warned Islamabad of consequences if it continues to do so while announcing his Afghan and south Asia policy in August.

President Trump yesterday hailed the release of the hostages from Taliban captivity. He said their release was a “positive moment” for US relations with Pakistan.

Trump also praised Pakistan for its willingness to “do more to provide security in the region” and said the release suggests other “countries are starting to respect the United States of America once again.”

Trump Takes Tougher Line On Iran's Nuclear Program

WASHINGTON, Oct 14: President Trump announced Friday that he will not recertify the Iran nuclear deal. However, Trump "is stopping short of asking Congress to reimpose sanctions on Tehran. Instead, the president is urging lawmakers to pass a new law, spelling out conditions under which sanctions could be reimposed."

"We will not continue down the path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran's nuclear breakout," Trump said in remarks delivered at the White House.

His decision to withdraw presidential "certification" of the deal throws its future into doubt by tying continued U.S. participation to new requirements for Iran. But the approach also falls well short of Trump's repeated campaign vow to scrap the deal altogether, marking the latest collision between his "America first" worldview and the realities of global diplomacy and dealmaking.

The move was immediately met with opposition Friday from U.S. allies that are part of the pact and with skepticism from many U.S. lawmakers, including some Republicans. Iran, meanwhile, responded with a threat of its own, vowing in a statement to walk away if Iranian "rights and interests in the deal are not respected."
If the amendment is approved by Congress and Iran fails to meet the new requirements, the United States could impose new sanctions that would effectively break the deal. Or, if Congress is unwilling, Trump said he could back away on his own.

"As I have said many times, the Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into," Trump said, later charging that Tehran is "not living up to the spirit of the deal."

U.S. officials acknowledge that Iran is meeting its technical obligations but accuse the Islamic republic of using the deal as a shield for an expansion of "destabilizing" activities such as the funding and arming of terrorist groups.

Keeping Iran deal Is In America's National Interest

By Harry J. Kazianis

WASHINGTON, Oct 12: There was always a basic problem with the so-called Iran nuclear deal inked back in 2015 that was never going to be resolved: Washington and Tehran have vastly different interests across the Middle East. It was never going to be easy to somehow compartmentalize the relationship, to in some way come to terms over Iran’s nuclear program but not resolve countless other issues that have always driven these two nations apart. And it could someday tear the deal to shreds.

But sheer necessity dictates that now is not the time for such an action. In fact, I would argue a move by President Trump to ‘decertify’ the agreement is against America’s national interests.

To be brutally honest, The Islamic Republic of Iran is no friend of the United States—period. Its regional aspirations are nothing short of an attempt to become the dominant power in the Middle East and displace America from the region. The regime is a state-sponsor of terror that will use whatever brutal and violent means it can to achieve its objectives.

And it’s no secret that Iran is a human rights-abuser of the worst kind, even working with fellow pariah-state North Korea to develop advanced missile platforms that could someday target U.S. forces in the region.

But the deal that President Obama made with Tehran back in 2015—wrinkles and all—is worth keeping for a very pragmatic, realistic reason: the Trump Administration has much bigger problems on its plate.

Decertifying the deal now—with the danger of Tehran building nuclear weapons that are now pushed out at least a decade or more under the deal—would take away much needed bandwidth from confronting much bigger challenges Team Trump must address that are of much more critical domestic and international importance. And considering the very real possibility that decertifying the deal could very well put both nations on the path towards potential conflict—if Tehran attempts to make a run towards nuclear weapons, fearing an eventual U.S. move towards regime change—President Trump must make the hard choice to stay the course.

I would identify five core problems Team Trump needs to tackle right now—all that could be in jeopardy of being marginalized if tensions with Iran were to come to a head thanks to decertification. These include:

A Stalled Domestic Agenda: President Trump is unstoppable when he hammers away at his opponents on the issues that turned him from a 150/1 underdog to our nation’s 45th president. Americans voted for Donald Trump because he promised to end our illegal immigration crisis and secure the border, to repeal ObamaCare once and for all, to modernize the tax code and rebuild our badly neglected infrastructure. He needs to press ahead to enact that agenda—period. A confrontation with Iran now could very well use up all the vital political capitol he will need to expend to make his promises the law of the land. And nothing could be more important—and go a long way to seeing him reelected. Getting mixed up in a crisis with Iran could doom this agenda—forever.

North Korea: Now armed with nuclear weapons that our own military commanders are assuming have the capability to hit the U.S. homeland, North Korea is an existential threat President Trump needs to make his top foreign policy priority. There is nothing more important—nothing.

Any move to decertify the Iran deal will take away the momentum needed to confront this clear and present danger. The administration is already in the process of trying to build a global coalition to isolate Pyongyang economically, financially and diplomatically. Team Trump will also likely need to move more offensive military assets into Northeast Asia over the long-term, increase its missile defense capabilities in Asia and at home, as well as convince China to enforce all sanctions and bring the Kim regime to the bargaining table. A self-created crisis with Iran could very well endanger these efforts, and ensure North Korea is a nuclear weapons state for many years to come.

A Rising China: While the world might be rightly transfixed over the North Korea crisis, over the long-term, America will also need to formulate a grand strategy to deal with a rising China. Beijing now has the second largest economy in the world and a military machine to match. With China’s President Xi Jinping pushing his nation's influence into all corners of Asia -- from parts of the former Soviet Union to essentially turning the South China Sea into its own Lake Beijing -- China is on the cusp of superpower status. With countless issues between us and a big presidential visit to Asia coming in the next few weeks, taking on Iran now would once again reinforce a narrative Asian diplomats here in Washington constantly repeat over and over—that Washington is slowly losing Asia to China and is obsessed with the Middle East.

ISIS: While defeat of the Islamic State seems a near certainty—and a national interest we share with Iran—we must keep our focus on destroying the caliphate as our number one objective in the Middle East. As the Islamic State morphs from dying nation-state into a terror network flung all over the globe, America must continue to press forward in making sure ISIS never regains any ground. Needlessly confronting Iran now would endanger such a goal.

Trade: President Trump was speaking truth to power when he argued that America needed fairer trade practices that put our nation's workers first. The administration is working hard to modernize NAFTA, partnering with Asian nations like South Korea and Vietnam to correct job-crushing trade imbalances, and potentially working towards new Free Trade Agreements with some of our closest allies like Japan. All of these goals will require a focused administration that will need to drive some very hard bargains, bargains that will take much time and energy. If Washington were to decertify the deal with Iran and a crisis were to ensue, not only would it have an impact on our Asian allies, but there simply might not be any political bandwidth to make these deals a reality.

Smart foreign policy is always keeping in mind prioritization, ensuring that America’s national interests are front and center. And that is the key promise President Trump made—to make America “first” again. And that means keeping America in the Iran deal.

@ Harry J. Kazianis (@grecianformula) is director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, founded by former President Richard M. Nixon.

US bombers fly over Korean peninsula, Trump weighs options against Pyongyang

WASHINGTON, Oct 10: The US flew two bombers over the Korean peninsula on Tuesday, as President Donald Trump weighed options on North Korea, both pre-emptive and retaliatory, presented to him by his top military leaders.

The two B-1B Lancer bombers, which took off from a US base on Guam, were joined by two F-15K fighters from the South Korean Air Force. Two jets from Japan also joined in later.

After entering South Korean airspace, the bombers carried out air-to-ground missile drills in waters off the east coast of South Korea, then flew over the South to waters between it and China to repeat the drill, said a report citing a press statement from South Korean military. The US military this was the first such night-time exercise undertaken by the three militaries.

The White House said Trump met members of his national security team to receive a briefing from defence secretary James Mattis and joint chiefs of staff chairman Gen Joseph Dunford.

“The briefing and discussion focused on a range of options to respond to any form of North Korean aggression or, if necessary, to prevent North Korea from threatening the United States and its allies with nuclear weapons,” it said.

The exercises came amidst growing tensions between the US and its allies, and North Korea. Last week, Trump had ominously remarked about the “calm before the storm” and had, on a separate occasion, said diplomacy was wasted on North Korea as it “only understand(s) one thing”.

The drills also came a day after a South Korean lawmaker reported the theft of joint US-South Korean operational wartime plans by North Korean hackers in 2016 — about 235 gigabytes of military documents from South Korea’s Defence Integrated Data Center.

The US has said “all options” are on the table to deal with mounting threats from North Korea, with Trump seen to be leaning more towards a military solution in public remarks. However, secretary of state Rex Tillerson and Mattis both favour diplomacy.

US warship sails near South China Sea islands

WASHINGTON, Oct 11: A US Navy destroyer sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea on Tuesday, three US officials said, prompting anger in Beijing, even as President Donald Trump’s administration seeks Chinese cooperation in reining in North Korea’s missile and nuclear programmes.

The operation was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters. But it was not as provocative as previous ones carried out since Trump took office in January.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Chafee, a guided-missile destroyer, carried out normal maneuvering operations that challenged “excessive maritime claims” near the Paracel Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals over which China has territorial disputes with its neighbours.

China’s defence ministry said on Wednesday that a warship, two fighter jets and a helicopter had scrambled to warn the US ship away, adding it had infringed upon China’s sovereignty and security with its “provocation”.

China would further strengthen its naval and air defences, the ministry said.

“We demand the US side earnestly take steps to correct its mistakes,” it added.

Speaking earlier at a daily news briefing in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had lodged “stern representations” with the United States, and reiterated that the Paracels were Chinese territory.

“China will continue to take resolute measures to protect Chinese sovereign territory and maritime interests. China urges the US to conscientiously respect China’s sovereign territory and security interests, conscientiously respect the efforts regional countries have made to protect peace and stability in the South China Sea, and stop these wrong actions.”

Next month, Trump makes his first visit to Asia as president, including a stop in China, which he has been pressuring to do more to rein in North Korea. China is North Korea’s neighbour and biggest trading partner.

Unlike in August, when a US Navy destroyer came within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea, officials said the destroyer on Tuesday sailed close to but not within that range of the islands.

Twelve nautical miles mark internationally recognized territorial limits. Sailing within that range is meant to show the United States does not recognise territorial claims.

The Pentagon did not comment directly on the operation, but said the United States carried out regular freedom-of-navigation operations and would continue to do so.

China’s claims in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in shipborne trade passes each year, are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Experts and some US officials have criticized former president Barack Obama for potentially reinforcing China’s claims by sticking to innocent passage, in which a warship effectively recognized a territorial sea by crossing it speedily without stopping.

The US military has a long-standing position that its operations are carried out throughout the world, including in areas claimed by allies, and that they are separate from political considerations.

The United States has said it would like to see more international participation in freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea.

Trump’s trip to Asia will likely be dominated by the North Korean nuclear threat. He will also visit South Korea, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

In recent weeks, North Korea has launched two missiles over Japan and conducted its sixth nuclear test, all in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, and may be fast advancing toward its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.

Trump’s visit to China will reciprocate a trip to the United States made in April by Chinese President Xi Jinping. The US president’s attempts to get Chinese help with North Korea have met with limited success so far, but he has gone out of his way to thank Xi for his efforts.

Long Island New York Vigil Prayers for Las Vegas Shooting Victims

By Deepak Arora

NEW YORK, Oct 4: While President Donald Trump visited hospital and a vital police base in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Nassau County Human right Commission Chairman Bobby Kalotee along with Civic and religious leaders and County elected officials held a prayer vigil the same day at the Nassau County legislative building in Mineola in Long Island for Las Vegas shooting victims.

Speaking on the occasion, Chairman Bobby Kalotee and District Attorney Madeline Singas offered prayers and condolences to the victims of Sunday night's shooting massacre and thanked and praised first responders and doctors who rushed to save lives.

Besides Dr. Bobby Kalotee, those present on the solemn occasion were Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas; Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano; Majority Leader of Nassau County Legislator Norma Gonsalves; Minority Leader of Nassau County Legislator Kevan Abrahams; Deputy Majority Leader of Nassau County Legislator Rich Nicolello; Nassau County Legislator Arnold W. Drucker; Nassau County Legislator Ellen Birnbaum; Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder; and Interim Director Nassau County Human Rights Commission Rodney McRay.

Condemning all forms of senseless violence, Chairman Bobby Kalotee said the tragic event that occurred on Sunday night in Las Vegas was a crime against all Americans.
He said the vigil has been held to rebuke the senseless violence. He said “the evil acts will not win over the good of America.”

In her speech, Madeline Singas raised the issue of gun control and said something needs to be done about machine guns.

“Frankly I’m mad that our federal leaders would still allow those weapons to be sold legally in this country,” Singas said. “I think we have to do something about that, because machine guns...are not for sport. Machine guns are killing machines.”

The District Attorney also urged the residents to donate blood as part of the Las Vegas relief effort.

After a gunman on the 32nd floor of a hotel and casino opened fire on the crowd at an outdoor country music festival below, President Trump had said "America is truly a nation in mourning." The rampage killed at least 58 people and injured more than 500, many from gunfire, others from chaotic efforts to escape.

In Las Vegas, Trump spoke of the families who "tonight will go to bed in a world that is suddenly empty."

"Our souls are stricken with grief for every American who lost a husband or a wife, a mother or a father, a son or a daughter," he told them. "We know that your sorrow feels endless. We stand together to help you carry your pain."

Trump took a grim tour of Las Vegas and met face-to-face with victims and first responders.

In prepared remarks, he spoke of the courage displayed by those who risked or lost their lives saving loved ones and total strangers. He described an eyewitness account of police officers standing as bullets slammed around them and trying to direct concert-goers to safety.

He described a military veteran who had rushed to the scene in search of loved ones, but quickly turned to helping victims, using plastic barriers as gurneys for the injured and frantically searching for anything he could use to make splints.

"The example of those whose final act was to sacrifice themselves for those they love should inspire all of us to show more love every day for the people who grace our lives," Trump said.

The president spent about four hours in a city still reeling from the worst mass shooting in modern American history.

His first stop was the University Medical Center, where he spent over 90 minutes visiting with recovering victims, some with severe injuries, and listening to their stories. While a serious visit, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said there was laughter and celebration in some of the visits with eight families affected by the shooting. Trump also met with about 100 medical professionals.

Sanders said the visit was a moving experience for the President, who stayed longer at the hospital than planned and amended his formal remarks after the hospital trip.
Trump said after the visit that he'd met "some of the most amazing people" and invited them to visit the White House if they're ever in Washington.

Generous with superlatives, Trump also commended the doctors for doing an "indescribable" job.

Tiffany Huizar, 18, a high school student who lives in Santa Ana, Calif., is recovering from bullet wounds in the stomach and elbow. She said Trump "was very comforting and like a father figure. ... I feel like a lot of people have negative views about him and what he posts on Twitter and social media and he was absolutely a different guy today in the hospital."

Trump then headed to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police headquarters, where he met with officers, dispatchers and others who'd responded to the shooting Sunday night.
"You showed the world, and the world is watching," he told them, "and you showed what professionalism is all about."

Until his final remarks, Trump focused his comments during the trip on praising recovery efforts and offering congratulations to police officers, medical professionals and survivors, rather than on grieving the dead. At the last stop, however, he spoke slowly and somberly of the lives ended or forever altered.

Trump did not visit the site of the shooting, but on his trip from the airport, his motorcade drove past the Mandalay Bay hotel where the gunman fired down into the concert crowd.

CIA Official Predicts North Korean Provocation on Columbus Day

WASHINGTON, Oct 4: A top CIA official for the Korean Peninsula warned Wednesday that the U.S. should be ready for a new provocation by North Korea on Columbus Day on Oct. 9, which coincides with the anniversary of the founding of the political party that governs in Pyongyang.

"Stand by your phones," Yong Suk Lee, deputy assistant director of the CIA's Korea Mission Center, said while speaking at a conference organized by the agency at The George Washington University.

Lee did not speculate what North Korea might do, though it frequently carries out missile launches or nuclear tests on major state anniversaries, such as the birthday of leader Kim Jong Un or other dates associated with the lives of his father or grandfather. October 10 marks the anniversary of the founding of the Workers' Party of Korea in 1945.

Tensions with North Korea have reached new extremes in recent weeks, following months of increased weapons tests combined with new U.S. appraisals that Pyongyang is close to perfecting or perhaps already has made an intercontinental ballistic missile that can carry a nuclear warhead and hit targets accurately.

Lee added that Pyongyang historically has been controlled by its fear of the Chinese abandoning its support for the Hermit Kingdom, or that the U.S. would carry out a military strike. Kim Jong Un no longer has those fears, Lee said.

"There's a clarity of purpose in what Kim Jong Un has done," Lee said.

He added, however, that the likelihood remains low of North Korea purposefully starting a war with the U.S. or its allies like South Korea.

"The last person who wants conflict on the peninsula is actually Kim Jong Un," Lee said, adding that Kim, like all authoritarian leaders, wishes to rule for a long time and die in his own bed. "We have a tendency in this country and elsewhere to underestimate the conservatism that runs in these authoritarian regimes."

President Donald Trump, who continues to utter and tweet threats against North Korea, will visit South Korea, Japan and China on a trip throughout Asia in November.

58 Dead, 500 Wounded In Las Vegas Shooting

LAS VEGAS, Oct 1: A gunman killed at least 58 people and wounded more than 500 others at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday, raining down rapid fire from the 32nd floor of a hotel for several minutes before he was killed by police.

The death toll, which police emphasized was preliminary and tentative, would make the attack the deadliest mass shooting in US history, eclipsing last year's massacre of 49 people at an Orlando night club.

Thousands of panicked people fled the scene, in some cases trampling one another as law enforcement officers scrambled to locate and kill the gunman. Shocked concertgoers, some with blood on their clothes, wandered the streets after the attack.

The suspect was a local Las Vegas man who acted alone and was not believed to be connected to any militant group, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters.

The gunman has been identified by the police as Stephen Paddock. The shooter's 62-year-old companion, an Asian-American woman identified as Marilou Danley, has been located, the police added.

"We have no idea what his belief system was," Lombardo said. "Right now, we believe he was the sole aggressor and the scene is static."

Police had located two cars that belonged to Paddock.

They said that rumours of other shootings in the area were false.

Las Vegas's casinos, nightclubs and shopping draw some 3.5 million visitors from around the world each year and the area was packed with visitors when the shooting broke out shortly after 10 p.m. (0400 GMT).

Witnesses on social media said the shooting broke out on the last night of the three-day Route 91 Harvest festival, a sold-out event attended by thousands and featuring top acts such as Eric Church, Sam Hunt and Jason Aldean.

The spokeswoman for the University Medical Center hospital said 14 of the wounded were in a critical condition. All had suffered gunshot wounds, she said.

 

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