Just in time: POTUS may now be taking a long view on denuclearizing North Korea, The Wall Street Journal reports this morning, just four days away from the historic summit in Singapore. “It’s going to be much more than a photo op—it’s a process,” President Trump said Thursday at the White House. “It’s not a one-meeting deal. It’d be wonderful if it were.”
And Trump is ready…in his way…for whatever comes. Speaking to reporters during a pool spray at the White House Thursday, and seated beside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump said, “I think I’m very well prepared. I don’t think I have to prepare very much. It’s about attitude, it’s about willingness to get things done. So this isn’t a question of preparation, it’s a question of whether or not people want it to happen, and we’ll know that very quickly.” More from that angle over at Politico, here.
Granted, Tuesday’s meeting in Singapore "is advancing without the months of detailed negotiation and scripting that have long preceded most arms control summits, injecting a note of unpredictability and putting a premium on the need to clarify Pyongyang’s commitments,” the Journal cautions. “One likely outcome of the summit is a communique that would outline the principles that should guide U.S.-North Korea relations and establish the parameters for lower-level talks that would follow."
Forget Libya. U.S. officials say the challenge is similar to South Africa in the late '80s. That nation "voluntarily dismantled its six nuclear weapons after President F.W. de Klerk took office in 1989, joined the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and opened its sites to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency."
And North Korea’s anticipated response? Leader “Kim [Jong-un] already has called for a ‘phased and synchronized’ approach [to getting rid of its nuclear weapons program], spurring debate among former U.S. diplomats about whether Pyongyang is intent on moving methodically toward a grand bargain in which it would trade away its nuclear arsenal, or is maneuvering to put off denuclearization for as long as possible.” More from the Journal, here.
How to judge Trump’s North Korea deal? One of the negotiators of the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran suggests this: “hold any agreement to the standard the president set in criticizing the Iran deal.” Wendy Sherman’s useful piece in Politico lays out just why that’s a tall order. Read, here.
From the region: Taiwan’s military is practicing repelling “a Chinese airborne assault on a major air base,” Stars and Stripes reported Thursday.
Sights and sounds out of that: "Thursday's exercise featured soldiers in red helmets playing the role of Chinese troops landing by helicopter while special forces troops were deployed against them and tanks launched smoke screens. Other helicopters and fighter jets flew overhead while paratroopers dove from a C-130 transport plane and air defense missile batteries let fly." Read on, here.
And from the Department of Why Not, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin are now “best friends.” Reuters reports this morning from Beijing: “Chinese President Xi Jinping gave visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin China’s first friendship medal on Friday, calling him his best friend, underscoring the close ties between the two despite deep reservations many Western nations have of Putin.” Feel the love, here.
From Defense One
Russia, Too, Is Building a Giant War Cloud // Patrick Tucker: It’s the latest improvement in the Russian military’s ability to operate off the rest of the world’s grid.
Google’s New Ethics Rules Forbid Using Its AI for Weapons // Quartz’ Dave Gershgorn: In the wake of an employee protest, the internet giant also vows not to use AI in surveillance tools that would violate “internationally accepted norms.
Lockheed Boosts Investment in Early-Stage Tech Companies // Patrick Tucker: Silicon Valley isn’t closing itself off to military money, just because Google is.
Rick Perry Should Not Be Allowed to Pick Nuclear Weapons // Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic: The Trump administration and its allies in Congress want the Energy Secretary to determine whether to develop a new class of low-yield nuclear weapons.
What Happens in the Gulf Doesn’t Stay in the Gulf // Robert Malley, The Atlantic: A year after the Qatar crisis began, it’s having potentially dangerous reverberations in the Horn of Africa.
Ash Carter’s pointed message to Silicon Valley; Great-power contracts; Northrop closes Orbital deal; and a bit more. // Marcus Weisgerber’s Global Business Brief.
U.S.-backed Syrian troops (not Kurds, this time) killed seven ISIS fighters inside the southern “de-confliction zone” near At Tanf on Monday, U.S. Central Command announced Thursday evening. The fighters reportedly “attempt[ed] to bypass a security checkpoint” run by fighters from the group Maghawir al-Thawra.
According to CENTCOM, “The vehicle occupants, identified as Daesh, attempted to flee and fired weapons at Coalition partners. At least one Daesh member self-detonated his suicide vest during the ensuing exchange of fire. Seven Daesh terrorists were killed and there were no Coalition or partner casualties.”
SecDef Mattis met with his Turkish counterpart Thursday. The Pentagon revealed the meeting in Brussels with Nurettin Canikli this morning.
Known-knowns out of that: “Mattis praised bilateral efforts in Syria to develop a sustainable long-term arrangement in Manbij to address Turkey's security concerns, ensure stability and security in the region, and remain focused on the fight against ISIS.”
The U.S. military is about to escalate its war against ISIS in Afghanistan, since that ceasefire with the Taliban kinda takes some pressure off one traditional antagonist in that country, U.S. Army General John Nicholson told reporters this morning in Brussels.
Google swears off using its AI for weapons. On Thursday, CEO Sundar Pichai posted a set of “ethical guidelines” for the company’s use of its artificial intelligence technologies. “No-nos include AI specifically for weaponry, as well as surveillance tools that would violate ‘internationally accepted norms.’” That via Quartz, here.
Lockheed, meanwhile, is doubling down. LM is planning to invest another $100 million in early-stage tech companies, particularly ones working in AI. Patrick Tucker has more.
Trump team will remove crippling sanctions on China’s ZTE. They were imposed after the telecom giant sold products to Iran and North Korea, misled U.S. regulators, and failed to discipline the employees responsible for the sanction breach.
Terms: ZTE will pay $1 billion and have a U.S.-chosen compliance team, CNBC reports.
Reax from Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.): “This idea of ‘embedding a compliance team’ at ZTE is a nice talking point, but unless the Trump Administration plans to open an FBI counter-intel field office inside the company, Beijing is about to get one heck of a deal on a backdoor into US telecom networks.”
The White House is sending 1,600 detained immigrants to U.S. prisons “in the first large-scale use of federal prisons to hold detainees amid a Trump administration crackdown on people entering the country illegally,” Reuters reports this morning.
For some perspective, “Under former President Barack Obama, many immigrants without serious criminal records were allowed to await their court dates while living in the United States. Others were housed in immigration detention facilities or local jails. ICE has used federal prisons in the past but not on this scale,” a U.S. official told Reuters.
Notable: “In April 2018, nearly 51,000 people were apprehended at or near the southern border, up from about 16,000 in the same month a year earlier.” Read on at Reuters, here.
Hospice for Gitmo? The Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg reported this week on a revived White House effort “to build a new $69M prison at Gitmo for 15 former CIA captives, something then-Marine Gen. John Kelly sought in 2014.”
Involved: “Two wings would have wheelchair-accessible cells and communal space, which they currently do not. A third wing would be for hospice care, a first for overall prison operations begun Jan. 11, 2002. And the new prison would have attorney-client meeting rooms instead of a remote site where their special guards, Task Force Platinum, bring them in restraints inside a windowless van. It would be called Camp 8.”
The problem? Congress. “The House did not include it in its version of the defense policy bill for fiscal 2019, and the Senate Armed Services Committee's version, released Wednesday, shows it did not.
Which means, Rosenberg writes, “Absent special legislation, the last chance to fund it would be when the full Senate takes up the National Defense Authorization Act later this year.” Continue reading, here.
Says one of your D-Brief-er’s former fire support officers: “Unsurprisingly, the guy who stole an APC from Fort Pickett is a total space cadet.”
How he arrived at that conclusion: The Associated Press reported that the Army National Guard officer charged with driving an armored personnel carrier off base while under the influence of drugs “insisted Thursday he was ordered to do so as part of a training exercise and called the charges against him ‘completely bogus.’”
Said the 29-year-old lieutenant, whom we’re not inclined to glorify by spreading his name — but you can look it up in this story: “I didn’t want to do it, but I believed it was a lawful order, and as a commissioned officer I was required to do so… I didn’t just run in to an APC and drive it off. It was prepped. It was prepared with 60 miles of fuel and soldiers assisted with the preparation.”
Replied a Virginia National Guard spokesman: The LT “was not authorized by the brigade commander or anyone else to drive the armored personnel carrier off Fort Pickett to any location for any reason.”
For what it’s worth, the detained officer “has more than 11 years of service, and was deployed to Afghanistan from 2008 to 2009 with the Illinois National Guard.”
Be safe out there this weekend, folks. And maybe if you really feel the need to drive a tank, head up to Kasota, Minn., to a business called — appropriately enough here — “Drive A Tank.” NPR’s All Things Considered host Robert Siegel talked with that business’s owner, Tony Borglum, about what you can do at his property, (sorry, mates — British tanks only), way back in 2012, over here.