Trump asks North Korea to talk; Chinese carrier transits strait; Iran, China try to quell protests; Linking the battlefield; And a bit more.

Don’t expect any breakthrough deals with North Korea anytime soon. That’s Pyongyang’s message a day after U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted an offer to continue negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program. “A senior North Korean diplomat, in a Monday statement carried by state media, said he interpreted Mr. Trump’s tweet as suggesting the two countries meet for a third summit,” the Wall Street Journal reports today.

“Mr. Chairman,” Trump’s Sunday tweet began, “I am the only one who can get you where you have to be. You should act quickly, get the deal done. See you soon!”

North Korea’s response: “We are not interested in summits that give us nothing,” Foreign Ministry adviser Kim Kye Gwan responded in a statement carried on state-run Korean Central News Agency. "We must receive our end of the bargain for what President Trump has touted as his achievements already.”

In other words, the Associated Press writes, North Korea is “saying it has no interest in giving Trump further meetings to brag about unless it gets something substantial in return.” 

There have been three rounds of talks since June 2018, Kim said in his statement. “but no particular improvement has been achieved in the DPRK-U.S. relations.” Meanwhile, “the U.S. only seeks to earn time, pretending it has made progress in settling the issue of the Korean Peninsula.”

Otherwise, North Korea’s military has carried out two quite public drills in the last three days, AP reports separately this morning. The latest drill reportedly featured paratroopers and snipers and a promise from Kim Jong-un to build an “invincible army.” 

Reminder: Kim Jong-un set a deadline of the end of this calendar year to reach some sort of deal with the U.S. If no deal is reached, which seems quite likely at this point (Bloomberg), Kim has suggested “North Korea could resume nuclear and long-range missile testing, which it has suspended since 2017,” Reuters reports.

In Seoul today, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and South Korean officials are back to work on that Special Measures Agreement. Today Esper and company are trying to work through “a $4 billion gap in how much they want Seoul to pay for the cost of hosting the American military,” Reuters reports

America’s chief negotiator: James DeHart, Senior Advisor for Security Negotiations and Agreements in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs — a position he’s held since September.

On the South Korean side: Jeong Eun-bo, who Reuters writes “was previously vice chairman of the Financial Services Commission and a deputy finance minister… Jeong was involved in South Korea’s debt negotiations with international financial agencies during the 1998 Asian financial crisis, and currency swap deals during the 2008 global financial crisis.” Read on, here.

From Defense One

How Lockheed Martin Is Trying To Link Everything on the Battlefield // Patrick Tucker: Experiment by experiment, the company is weaving aircraft, ground vehicles, satellites, and the rest into a network that will someday give commanders unprecedented decision-support options.

How Trump's War-Crime Pardons Undermine the Military // Kori Schake, The Atlantic: Once again, our president has used the military as a political tool to its detriment as an institution.

What Is an Oligarch? // Joel Samuels, The Conversation: And why it matters for Russia, Ukraine, and the United States.

Apprehensions of Undocumented Immigrants on US-Mexico Border Continue to Fall // Julián Aguilar, The Texas Tribune: The figure is the lowest since July 2018 and marks the fifth consecutive month that the number has dropped.

What America’s Allies Really Think About Trump’s Syria Decision // Uri Friedman, The Atlantic: During a few wild weeks in October, U.S. allies watched as their own worst nightmare befell America’s Kurdish partners in Syria. Here’s what that means for America’s standing in the world.

Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here

China sent its first indigenously made aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait for the first time on Monday, en route to the South China Sea. Taiwan denounced the passage as “intimidation,” Reuters reports
Watch: a PLA Navy video about the passage (via dafeng cao).

Hong Kong latest: China’s ambassador to Britain accused the U.K. and U.S. of interfering in its internal affairs with their “irresponsible remarks” criticizing how the Hong Kong government and police have handled the protests, AP reports. At least one person has died and more than 2,000 people have been injured, with thousands more exposed to tear gas by police actions.
“If the situation becomes uncontrollable, the Chinese government certainly will not sit on our hands and watch, we have enough resolution and power to end the unrest,” Liu Xiaoming told reporters in London. 
Spotted: special operators. Among the troops that appeared in HK last weekend were members of the Xuefeng Special Operations Brigade, an elite antiterrorism unit normally found in Xinjiang and Tibet, the South China Morning Post reported. Wearing their distinctive basketball-style shirts, they jogged around the neighborhood and cleaned up the small brick obstacles laid down by protestors. Story and video, here

Leaked documents detail China’s mass detentions of Muslims in Xinjiang. The New York Times obtained more than 400 pages of internal Chinese documents that “provide an unprecedented inside look at the crackdown on ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region.” Read, here.
China's reax: “pure fabrication,” via Reuters, here.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards warned protesters a harsh crackdown could be next if they don’t stop complaining about sudden government-instituted spikes in gas prices. 
What’s going on: “Many in oil-producing Iran see cheap gasoline as a fundamental right and the price hike sparked worries about a further squeeze on living costs, despite state assurances that the revenue raised would be put to assisting needy families,” Reuters reports. “The protests have spread across the Islamic Republic since Friday, turning political with demonstrators demanding that top clerical leaders step down. At least 100 banks and dozens of buildings and cars have been torched… Authorities said several people, including members of the security forces and policemen, had been killed and around 1,000 ‘rioters’ arrested, some for using guns and knives.”
For some perspective, what’s taking place in Iran now “appears to be the worst unrest since late 2017 when protests hit over 80 cities and towns, staged by thousands of young and working-class Iranians fed up with alleged corruption, high unemployment and a widening gap between rich and poor… Two years on, anger and desperation has resurfaced over the painful economic effect of renewed U.S. sanctions and the government’s failed promises of more jobs and investment.” More here.

For your eyes only: Iran’s years-long influence operation in Iraq, detailed. The Intercept and the New York Times published a cache of of 700-pages of secret documents that allegedly “exposed Iran’s vast influence in Iraq, showing how Iranian spies have infiltrated every aspect of Iraq’s political, economic, and religious life.” 

Lastly today: France and Germany will broker a Russia-Ukraine meeting in about a month, French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday. 
Ahead of that meeting, Russia just returned three of Ukraine’s captured naval ships, AFP reports from Kyiv in an apparent pattern of diplomatic activity since August. “After an exchange of prisoners in September and the withdrawal of some frontline forces over the last few weeks, the handover marked another step in trying to resolve the five-year conflict in eastern Ukraine.”
Background on the ships: “Russia seized the ships in the same area in November last year after opening fire on them and wounding several sailors,” Reuters reports. “Moscow said the ships - two small Ukrainian armoured artillery vessels and a tug boat - had illegally entered its territorial waters. Kiev denied that.” Read on, here.