Trump, Kim walk away from nuclear deal with North Korea. “Sometimes you have to walk, and this was just one of those times,” President Donald Trump told reporters in Hanoi after his second meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. North Korea’s delegation “wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that.”
“Ready to sign.” “Kim said he was prepared in principle to denuclearize, and Trump said an agreement was ‘ready to sign.’ But Trump said the main impediment to a deal was Kim’s requirement that the United States lift all economic sanctions on North Korea in exchange for the closure of only one nuclear facility, which still would have left Pyongyang with a large arsenal of missiles and warheads,” the Washington Post reports.
An unexpected ending: “The White House had been confident enough to schedule a ‘joint agreement signing ceremony’ at the conclusion of talks. Like the lunch, the ceremony did not take the place,” Reuters reports.
What now? “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hopes that negotiators from the two countries will be able to narrow differences in the future,” the Washington Post writes, “but he did not announce any firm plans to continue talking.”
“I trust him.” The U.S. president said the North Korean dictator had promised he’d continue to refrain from testing “of rockets and nuclear,” regardless of the non-deal, “so, you know, I trust him, and I take him at his word.”
Trump exaggerates cost of US-ROK exercises. POTUS45: “I gave that up awhile ago because it costs us $100 million every time we do it.” Fact, via Reuters: “The cost of a recently cancelled military exercises was $14 million.” (Here’s a list of his verifiably false public statements.)
Bigger picture: “The collapse of the talks raised questions about the Trump administration’s preparations and about what some critics see as his cavalier style of personal diplomacy,” Reuters writes. Read on, here.
A common line of support among Asia-watchers: No deal is better than a bad deal, and POTUS was “right to walk,” tweeted Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass. “But this should not have happened. Busted summit is risk you run when too much faith placed in personal relations w/ leader like Kim, when summit inadequately prepared, and when president signaled he was confident of success.”
Hanoi hangover, U.S. edition. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., praised the end result from Hanoi but also found much to be desired from the president. Said Schiff this morning on Twitter: “Walking away from the summit was better than making a bad deal. It’s also the result of a poorly planned strategy. But accepting Kim’s denial of involvement in Warmbier’s death? Detestable, and harkens back to Trump’s duplicitous acceptances of denials from other dictators.”
Historical note: Kim answered a question from a foreign journalist for the first time ever, as the Washington Post’s Anna Fifield noted. Asked whether he was confident going into the summit, Kim said, “It’s too early to tell, but I wouldn’t say I’m pessimistic. For what I feel right now, I do have a feeling that good results will come out.”
From Defense One
After Raising the Stakes for North Korea Summit, Trump Walks Away // The Atlantic’s Uri Friedman: It seemed history was about to be made. Then the second meeting between the U.S. and North Korean leaders concluded abruptly.
I Ran the Air War Over Gaddafi. Here’s Why The US Should Stop Backing the Yemen War // Margaret Woodward: One hopes Jared Kushner said it in Saudi Arabia, but Congress should curtail the Pentagon’s participation in this war.
The India-Pakistan Crisis Has Lessons for Trump and Kim // Uri Friedman, The Atlantic: As the U.S. president meets with North Korea’s dictator, he ought to heed the military escalation in South Asia.
Security Clearance Delays Are Hurting the Pentagon’s Tech Workforce // Jack Corrigan, Nextgov: The Defense Department is also looking to build out its recruitment staff, officials told Congress.
The Slender Path Back to the Iran Nuke Deal — and Away from War // Ryan Costello: U.S. policymakers outside the administration must speak up about the need to rejoin the JCPOA, paving the way for Trump’s successor to do so.
The Dangerous Spread of Extremist Manifestos // J.M. Berger, The Atlantic: Allegations against a Coast Guard lieutenant are a reminder that, by sharing the writings of terrorists, media outlets can amplify their impact.
Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Thanks for reading! And if you’re not subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1972 and at the conclusion of President Richard Nixon’s historic trip to China, the United States and People’s Republic of China signed the Shanghai Communiqué. The document pledged the two countries would work “toward the normalization of relations between China and the United States is in the interests of all countries” and “neither should seek hegemony in the Asia–Pacific region and each is opposed to efforts by any other country or group of countries to establish such hegemony.” Read more from the U.S. State Department, here.
Pakistan says it will release the Indian pilot it captured earlier this week during some of the greatest tensions between the two countries in almost 50 years. (For more about the long history of tensions in Kashmir, the Washington Post published a helpful explainer just this morning.)
The latest developments are out of Islamabad where Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan told lawmakers today, “We are releasing the Indian pilot as a goodwill gesture tomorrow,” the Associated Press reports from the Pakistani capital. “Pakistan wants peace, but it should not be treated as our weakness,” Khan also said — in a welcome gesture toward de-escalation. “The region will prosper if there is peace and stability. It is good for both sides.”
India, for its part, is still angling to save face, with one official telling AP “that even if the pilot is returned home, New Delhi would not hesitate to strike its neighbor first if it feared a similar militant attack was looming.”
Said India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi: “The world is observing our collective will. It is necessary that we shouldn’t do anything that allows our enemy to raise a finger at us.”
But even as leaders inch away from escalatory rhetoric, “fresh skirmishes erupted Thursday between Indian and Pakistani soldiers along the so-called Line of Control that divides disputed Kashmir between the two nuclear-armed rivals,” AP writes. Reuters notes that India alleges Pakistani forces initiated the fire each of the three instances so far today. And on the other side, “Pakistan’s military said four civilians had been killed and two wounded in what it called a ‘deliberate’ attack by India during the past 48 hours.”
Trump is tracking. “They have been going at it and we have been involved in trying to have them stop,” the president said of all this in Hanoi. “We have been in the middle trying to help them both out.”
The initial trigger of this episode was an alleged attack by militants of the Jaish-e-Mohammad group, Reuters writes that “The United States, Britain and France proposed the United Nations Security Council blacklist Masood Azhar, the head of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, the group that claimed responsibility for the Feb. 14 attack. China is likely to be oppose the move.” Much more, here.
The last ISIS fighters in Syria are using human shields from coalition airstrikes, Agence France-Presse reports this morning as the coalition-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are “poised for their final assault” in the city of Baghouz.
Women and children have been pouring out Baghouz by the thousands, filling up camps six hours to the north and raising concerns about the spread of dysentery. Grim stuff and ISIS holds out for another few days, here.
For your eyes only: Wanna see what a Russian military UAV swarm operation looks like so far? Here’s just the thing. (h/t @SamBendett)
FWIW: It looks like the things are tasked with picking out targets for an unmanned ground vehicle. If true, it would mark “a major step for the Russian military,” Bendett said.
Money, it’s a hit — with the U.S. Marine Corps Recruiting Command it is. The Corps is now offering between $10,000 and $70,000 as bonuses to first-term infantry Marines, RAND’s Phillip Carter noticed Wednesday after the USMC tweeted about it.
Carter’s quick takeaway: This whole offer “says a lot about the difficulty of military recruiting & retention in a strong economy (unemployment ~4%)”
Here’s WaPo’s Alex Horton, Army vet: “To put that urgency for retention in perspective, the offer from my unit to re-enlist in Iraq during the most violent period of the war was only $20,000”
This week in (by now unsurprising) border security news, the president completely made up 115 miles of border wall that had been contracted in late December. AP remembers that whopper, here. The update this week is a DoJ lawyer admitted in a Boston court, “Your honor, so far as I know, there is no such contract,” Law360’s Aaron Leibowitz reported Wednesday.
In other real and terribly unfortunate border security news, “Thousands of migrant children who crossed the southern border into the U.S. have reported they were sexually assaulted while in government custody, according to Department of Health and Human Services documents released Tuesday by Rep. Ted Deutch’s office” and reported on by USA Today.
For the record, “Allegations go back to 2015, meaning the reported assaults started under the Obama administration. But the allegations have increased in the past two years after the Trump administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy that led to at least 2,800 family separations flooding the department with additional children.” More here.
And finally today: The U.S. Navy is retiring an aircraft carrier early, bringing the fleet to 10, Breaking Defense’s Sydney Freedberg reported Wednesday off a forthcoming budget proposal (“part of the 2020-2024 budget plan due out mid-March”).
Exiting: the Nimitz-class supercarrier USS Truman, and it’s going down “at least two decades early, rather than refueling its nuclear reactor core in 2024 as planned.”
Cost savings: “more than $30 billion over 25 years.” Lots of folks may not like this, and you can read on through about a dozen updates for more, here.