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Trump Salutes North Korea

Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN's Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Jason Miks.

The briefing is being guest-edited by the GPS team this week.

June 14, 2018

Trump Salutes North Korea

Footage released today from the Singapore Summit is causing a firestorm in the United States. In it, a North Korean general "first salutes Trump, to which the president salutes back, before shaking his hand," reports Rebecca Morin for Politico. Moreover, North Korean leader "Kim is seen smiling in the background of the interaction."
 
"United States presidents typically do not salute military officials with adversarial nations. Washington and Pyongyang currently have no formal diplomatic relationship, and North Korea is still technically at war with South Korea, a key U.S. ally."
 
Among the critics was one retired U.S. Major General who "called Trump's salute 'wholly inappropriate.'"
 
President Obama faced criticism from conservatives for bowing to Japanese Emperor Akihito and then again for bowing to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in 2009, Morin reminds. "Conservatives said the move displayed weakness from the U.S. on the world stage."
 
Trump himself once railed about the Obama-Abdullah interaction, tweeting "do we still want a President who bows to Saudis and lets OPEC rip us off?"
 
The Trump salute was captured on film by North Korean media and aired in a documentary on state television, reports Adam Taylor for The Washington Post.
 
"This is a moment that will be used over and over in North Korea's propaganda as 'proof' that the American president defers to the North Korean military," said one North Korea expert Taylor consulted. "It will be treated as a military victory by the North Koreans."
 

The Bombardment of Yemen –
and US responsibility

 

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates bombarded the Al Hudaydah port in Yemen against UN objections yesterday. The port is crucial to the supply of humanitarian aid to the country, embroiled in conflict between the government and Houthi rebels.
 
But it's not just the Saudi coalition that's under fire. Critics are also attacking the complicity of the British and Americans, key Saudi allies and weapons suppliers.
 
The New York Times editorial board has urged the Trump administration to make "clear that an attack on Al Hudaydah is a disaster. Arms sales and perhaps other military assistance should be suspended," in favor of a UN-led cease fire and peace settlement.
 
"In 2015, the Saudi-led coalition, with President Barack Obama's backing, launched airstrikes against the Houthi forces." Since then, "President Trump has emboldened Saudi and Emirati leaders" and enabled weapons sales, the NYT says. 
 
Britain has its share of responsibility, too, writes Andrew Mitchell for The Guardian: "we are complicit in this attack. It is part of the coalition that supports Saudi Arabia in its war in Yemen."
 

More Winning for Beijing – This Time in the Middle East
 

"As the Middle East becomes ever more unstable, a surprising victor may be emerging: China," Daniel Kliman and Abigail Grace argue in Foreign Policy"Increased trade and investment, invigorated diplomatic exchanges, and expanded military ties are gradually transforming China's position in the Middle East."
 
As the United States has "reduced its dependence on foreign oil, China's energy imports from the region have surged," and the country remains "among the top three importers from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran."
 
Even Iran—alienated by President Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal—has found a friend in China, which has become the country's "No. 1 trading partner." Last year, "China-Iran trade exceeded $37 billion." 
 
Iranian-Chinese collaboration is not just economic. "In June 2017, China and Iran conducted a joint naval exercise" and, Kliman and Grace suggest, through its investments in infrastructure in the area, "China could ultimately seek to obtain military access in the region."
 

Another Great Big Summit…
 

China's "supercomputers" have been outperforming their American counterparts since 2013. But the United States' 4-year losing streak has officially ended.
 
The Summit is a $200 million, 340 ton machine built by the Department of Energy that is capable of "200 petaflops—200 million billion calculations a second," reports Martin Giles for the MIT Technology Review. "To put that in context, everyone on earth would have to do a calculation every second of every day for 305 days to crunch what the new machine can do in the blink of an eye."
 
But this supercomputer is more than a math whiz. The Summit will be put to work identifying "possible relationships between genes and cancer" and "genetic traits that could predispose people to opioid addiction and other afflictions."
 
If the 200 petaflop calculator sounds improbably fast, experts say it's just a step towards the next lightning-fast machine: both the US and China are racing towards the next generation of supercomputer, which could crunch out a whole "exaflop"—that's a billion billion—calculations per second.
 

 

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