Summit brings concessions, vague promises; Yemen war set to escalate; Trump Doctrine, defined; US opens not-quite-embassy in Taiwan; and just a bit more…

POTUS, post-summit: “They’re going to get rid of their nuclear weapons, George, and I think they want to do it relatively quickly. Now, we’re going to see. I mean, they’re going to start working on it immediately.” That’s U.S. President Donald Trump in a 13-minute talk with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, after his historic and unprecedented working lunch with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

No more exercises with South Korea: “I’m doing something that I’ve wanted to do from the beginning. We stopped playing those war games that cost us a fortune. You know, we’re spending a fortune, every couple of months we’re doing war games with South Korea, and I said, ‘What’s this costing?’ We’re flying planes in from Guam, we’re bombing empty mountains for practice. I said ‘I want to stop that and I will stop that, and I think it’s very provocative.”

Pentagon and South Korea reax: Trump’s declaration that the U.S. will end military exercises with its Korean ally took the Pentagon and America’s allies in the region by surprise. The Blue House later mustered up some brave words. (tip of the hat to Minseon Ku.)

So what did Trump get in return? You can read the 397-word agreement he signed.

Some reax:

  • “The denuclearization language is meaninglessly weak,” wrote Carnegie Endowment’s James Acton. “So much for an unambiguous commitment to complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement.” Thread.
  • “Trump gave up military exercises without consulting with South Korea in exchange for ‘working towards’ a still completely-undefined objective that has been gestured at for 25 years,” wrote Yale’s Mira Rapp-Hooper.
  • “Let’s just say it: Trump is a dove on North Korea,” wrote Pusan National U. prof Robert E. Kelly: “There is nothing ‘strong’ about the following: 1. Gave the summit for nothing. 2. Ducked human rights. 3. Gave up [military exercises] with S Korea for no concrete concession. 4. Declared desire to remove [U.S. forces in South Korea], also for nothing.” Thread.

Comparing nuclear deals: “Within a month, Trump pulled the US out of a 159-page detailed arms control agreement with intrusive verifiability with Iran and signed a short, ambiguous, and concessionary declaration with North Korea,” noted The Diplomat‘s Ankit Panda.

Thinking positive: “As we rightly note the ill-defined/aspirational nature of the Singapore declaration, we [shouldn’t] lose sight of what diplomacy can accomplish. The goal now should be to build on this in a phased, action-for-action manner. Summit far from a breakthrough, but it can be a springboard,” said Arms Control Today’s Kingston Reif.

Summit notes that don’t directly concern nukes:

  • Trump’s odd praise for Kim: “His country does love him. His people, you see the fervor. They have a great fervor.” (In 2014, a UN inquiry found that “North Korea’s leadership is committing systematic and appalling human rights abuses against its own citizens on a scale unparalleled in the modern world, crimes against humanity with strong resemblances to those committed by the Nazis,” the Guardian reported.)
  • The president ordered up a short propaganda film depicting him and Kim as peacemaking heroes.
  • He speculated about developing beach condos in totalitarian North Korea. (Reminder: he still owns his development company, the Trump Organization. Here’s Defense One’s running list of his international potential conflicts of interest.)

And finally, this from POTUS: “I may be wrong, I mean I may stand before you in six months and say, ‘Hey I was wrong,’” Trump said at a post-meeting press conference. “I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of an excuse.”


From Defense One

Blindsiding Pentagon & Allies, Trump Says US Will End Military Drills with S. Korea // Josh Horwitz, Quartz: Analysts noted that Trump received nothing but vague statements in return for the concession.

Russia Is Quietly Playing Three Roles in the Korean Drama // Elizabeth C. Economy, Council on Foreign Relations: Though it rarely makes the news, Moscow has a critical part as a behind-the-scenes negotiator, spoiler, and unholy ally.

Drone Cops Take Flight in Los Angeles // Geoff Manaugh, The Atlantic: The L.A. County Sheriff has deployed a quadcopter drone for rescue and reconnaissance. But will the public accept that these aerial officers come in peace?

A Senior White House Official Defines the Trump Doctrine: ‘We’re America, Bitch’ // Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic: The president believes that the United States owes nothing to anyone—especially its allies.

America Alone? // Krishnadev Calamur, The Atlantic: A bitter end to the G7 summit could have consequences for America’s alliances.

Welcome to this Singapore summit “deliverables” edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. They can subscribe here for free. On this day 31 years ago in Berlin: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”


The war in Yemen is about to escalate. The UAE military has given the Houthi rebels in western Yemen until today “to withdraw from the port of Hodeida under U.N.-led negotiations or face an assault,” Reuters reports this morning from the southern port city of Aden.
The significance: If the offensive proceeds, it would mark “the first time since they joined the war on behalf of Yemen’s exiled government that the foreign armies have attempted to capture such a well-defended major city.”
More than 600 people have been killed in Yemen recently “as [UAE- and Sudan-backed] forces close in on the Red Sea port of Hodeida, a vital lifeline through which most of Yemen’s food and medicine enters,” the Associated Press reported Monday from the capital of Sana’a. Reuters adds “a worst-case scenario a battle could cost up to 250,000 lives, as well as cutting off millions from aid and supplies.”
NPR’s Jane Arraf reviewed the major players and the status of this apparent proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, in a four-minute conversation with David Green on today’s Morning Edition, here.

More sanctions on Russian hackers, er “Russian Federal Security Service Enablers.” The U.S. Treasury on Monday sanctioned “five Russian companies and three individuals, some of whom are accused of directly supporting Russia’s intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service,” The New York Times reported.
According to Treasury, “the moves were in response to “malign and destabilizing” activities such as the NotPetya cyberattack in Ukraine last year, intrusions into America’s energy grid and efforts to compromise global digital infrastructure, including routers and switches. The sanctions are also intended to scuttle Russian efforts to track underwater communications cables that transmit much of the world’s data.” More from the Times, here; or read the release from the U.S. Treasury for yourself, here.
About that Russian “effort to track underwater communication cables,” Vice News pointed out the entity on the receiving end of those sanctions is “Russian submarine-maker called Divetechnoservices, which got paid $1.5 million to deliver a special submarine to the spy agency” known as the FSB. Tiny bit more, here.

Norway wants to double the number of U.S. Marines stationed there as a buffer against Russia, Reuters reports from Oslo.
The gist: “Oslo will ask Washington to send 700 Marines from 2019, compared with 330 presently,” Reuters writes. “The additional numbers will be based closer to the border with Russia in the Inner Troms region in the Norwegian Arctic, rather than in central Norway.”
What’s more, Norway appears to be backing a U.S. plan “to build infrastructure that could accommodate up to four U.S. fighter jets at a base 65 km (40 miles) south of Oslo, as part of a European deterrence initiative launched after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.” Read on, here.

For the record: We have new figures for NATO members’ “enhanced forward presence” near Russia: 4,547 troops from 21 different nations are spread across four countries in four separate battle groups, according to a new alliance fact sheet. Details, roll call, and more — in a PDF here. Or see it all on a map, minus a lot of detail, here.

ICYMI: The Philippine military joined forces with Indonesia and Malaysia as all three nations step up their pursuit of ISIS fighters in the southern Philippines, the Eurasia Review reported a few days ago.
Right now, the three nations are just exercising together. But “two months from now, we will step up and elevate this cooperation through the land forces joint operation,” Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said.
FWIW, “Among the 31,500 foreign fighters who had joined IS in Syria, about 800 came from Asia, including 400 from Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority country,” ER reports Ryamizard as having said, “citing intelligence data from his government.” Read on, here.

The U.S. unveiled its new $256 million “de facto embassy” in Taiwan on Monday, in a move that swiftly rustled China’s feathers, Reuters reported from a busy region.
Reminder: “China claims self-ruled Taiwan under its ‘one China’ policy and Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring what it sees as a wayward province under its control,” Reuters writes.
China’s reax to Monday’s announcement: “We urge the United States to scrupulously abide by its promises to China over the Taiwan issue, correct their wrong actions, and avoid damaging China-US relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said. A bit more, here.

Can you hear me now? (Taliban edition) The Afghan air force blew up a Taliban radio tower on Sunday, and now the group is protesting — and unironically citing a loss to “free speech” in the bombing, Reuters reports from the Graveyard of Empires.

So how’s that Afghan ceasefire going? (What do you think?) Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that just today “Taliban militants on June 12 overran a district capital in the northern province of Faryab, killing at least eight people.”
But that’s not all. “In neighboring Sar-e Pul Province, at least 14 members of the security forces were killed and 25 were wounded in an overnight attack by Taliban fighters… Four wounded soldiers were taken hostage.” The Taliban claimed those two attacks. Another suicide attack in Ghazni killed five Afghan troops and wounded 26 others — but no group (Taliban or ISIS) has yet claimed that one.
Reminder: The Afghan government is the one holding a ceasefire — at least until the Taliban start their own for “the first three days of Eid al-Fitr, which begins at the end of this week.” More here.

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