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Foreign Policy Issues
A Chronology of News Coverage

May 5, 2017: The Daily Caller: Russia moves to bar US military from skies over Syria:
The Russian government is attempting to bar the U.S. from most of Syria’s airspace in its latest effort to implement a ceasefire in the Syrian civil war, a senior diplomat told reporters attending the ceasefire conference Friday in Kazakhstan. Russia’s special envoy to Syria Aleksandr Lavrentiev said the U.S. led international coalition against ISIS would only be allowed to strike ISIS’s capital along with “some populated areas in the area of the Euphrates, Deir al-Zour and further on the Iraqi territory.” He emphatically declared, “The work of aviation, especially the forces of the international coalition, is absolutely not envisaged. With notification or without notification, this issue is now closed.”

May 4: Fox News:
House Passes North Korean Sanctions Bill
The House overwhelmingly voted Thursday to impose new sanctions on North Korea amid heightened tensions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.  The vote, 419-1, targets North Korea’s shipping industry and use of slave labor.   It also requires that the Trump administration report to Congress within 90 days on whether North Korea should be reinstated on the government’s state sponsors of terror list. Such a designation would trigger more sanctions, including restriction on U.S. foreign assistance.  Adm. Harry Harris Jr., the top American military officer in the Pacific, has warned lawmakers that it's a question of when, not if, Pyongyang successfully builds a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the U.S.

May 1: Yahoo News: North Koreans warn of nuclear test at any time
North Korea warned Monday that it will carry out a nuclear test "at any time and at any location" set by its leadership, in the latest rhetoric to fuel jitters in the region.  Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been running high for weeks, with signs that the North might be preparing a long-range missile launch or a sixth nuclear test -- and with Washington refusing to rule out a military strike in response.

April 26: The Daily Mail: North Korea prepares for War!
Kim Jong-Un's army readied for war as they fired rockets and torpedoes at mock enemy warships during North Korea's 'largest ever' live-fire artillery drills on Tuesday.  Hundreds of tanks were lined up along the eastern coastal town of Wonsan in a show of military strength to celebrate 85 years since the North Korean army was created.  The exercises on Tuesday involved the firing of more than 300 large-calibre artillery pieces and included submarine torpedo-attacks.  Just one day later, South Korea conducted joint military live-fire drills with the US at Seungjin fire training field in Pocheon, South Korea, near the border with North Korea.

April 19: Fox News
Secretary Tillerson: Iran nuclear deal failed approach – Vows comprehensive review

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ratcheted up criticism Wednesday of the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran, publicly confirming the Trump administration is conducting a “comprehensive review” and declaring they have “no intention of passing the buck.”  In some of his toughest language yet, Tillerson said at a brief press conference that the Iran deal “fails to achieve the objective of a non-nuclear Iran,” and only delays it becoming a nuclear state.  He faulted the agreement for “buying off” a foreign power with nuclear ambitions, saying: “We just don’t see that that’s a prudent way to be dealing with Iran.”

April 15: BBC News:
North Korean missile launch fails says South Korea
North Korea has attempted to launch a missile on its east coast which is believed to have failed, South Korea's military says.  It comes a day after the state warned the US that it was "ready to hit back with nuclear attacks" amid mounting tension in the region.  On Saturday, a military parade was held in Pyongyang as a show of force.  North Korea has already conducted five nuclear tests and a series of missile launches.

April 13: NBC News:
U.S. could launch preemptive strike on North Korea if they conduct nuclear test
The U.S. is prepared to launch a preemptive strike with conventional weapons against North Korea should officials become convinced that North Korea is about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test, multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.   North Korea has warned that a "big event" is near, and U.S. officials say signs point to a nuclear test that could come as early as this weekend.   The intelligence officials told NBC News that the U.S. has positioned two destroyers capable of shooting Tomahawk cruise missiles in the region, one just 300 miles from the North Korean nuclear test site.

April 8: The Independent Journal:
Ex-Obama official: Trumps attack on Syria an indictment of Obama’s policies

“Our administration never would have gotten this done in 48 hours,” one former senior Obama official said. “It’s a complete indictment of Obama.”  There was apparently a faction within Obama’s inner circle who believed allowing Syria to cross his “red line” without consequences or any military action was a serious foreign policy mistake. It now seems apparent that Obama was pushing back against some of his own advisers.

“I feel like finally we have done the right thing,” Anne-Marie Slaughter, who served as Obama’s first-term chief of policy planning at the State Department and long publicly urged a more forceful response to Assad’s horrific attacks on civilians during the six years of war that have wracked Syria, told me. “The years of hypocrisy just hurt us all. It undermined the U.S., it undermined the world order.”

April 3: Yahoo.com: U.S. withdraws from U.N. fund
The State Department said on Monday it was ending U.S. funding for the United Nations Population Fund, the international body's agency focused on family planning as well as maternal and child health in more than 150 countries.  In a letter to U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, the State Department said it was dropping the funding because the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) "supports, or participates in the management of, a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization."  The cut marks U.S. President Donald Trump's first move to curtail funding for the United Nations and is likely to raise further questions about how deep those cuts will eventually go throughout the organization, where the United States is the top donor.

March 17: The Daily Caller: 
Tillerson to North Korea: Military Action is on the Table!
Rex Tillerson told reporters in Seoul, South Korea Friday that a military response is “on the table” if North Korea takes military action threatening South Korean or U.S. forces.  “Certainly, we do not want things to get to a military conflict,” the secretary of state said in response to a question from CNN. “Obviously if North Korea takes actions that threatens the South Korean forces or our own forces, then that would be met with an appropriate response.”

February 15: Yahoo News
Trump Promises Israel that Iran will never get the bomb

President Donald Trump hailed the United States' "unbreakable" bond with Israel on Wednesday and promised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Iran would never be permitted to build a nuclear weapon.  Trump's vow was designed to address Israeli concerns over the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, which Netanyahu has warned expires too soon to permanently remove the threat. "With this visit the United States, again, reaffirms our unbreakable bond with our cherished ally, Israel," Trump said.

February 3: Yahoo News:
White House Investigation:  Leaks of Trump Calls to  Australia and Mexico

The White House is looking into details of how President Donald Trump's recent phone conversations with his counterparts in Australia and Mexico were leaked to news organizations.  Trump cut short a phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after a discussion about a refugee swap deal.  In an earlier call with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto about paying for a wall on the southern U.S. border, Trump lightheartedly said he might send the U.S. military to Mexico to stop drug cartels.  

February 1: Sky News: Brexit divisions laid bare in heated Parliamentary debate
The first major Commons vote on the road towards the UK leaving the EU is to take place after MPs complete a marathon two-day debate on triggering Article 50.  At the end of the first day of the second reading debate on the bill, which went on until four minutes to midnight, almost 100 MPs had already spoken for and against.

Prime Minister Theresa May is assured of a large majority in favor of the Government's bill to approve triggering Article 50. 

January 21: The UK Independent
China bracing for change in PRC/US Relations
China has reacted nervously to Donald Trump’s inauguration, with one state-controlled media outlet warning of “dramatic changes” and “fires” being lit by the new US administration.   International relations experts in China suggested the time had come for Beijing to make preparations for a sharp deterioration in relations with Washington.  Trump frequently hit out at China during his campaigning, branding the Beijing government “currency manipulators” and implicitly threatening a trade war.  His inauguration speech did not directly reference the country, but he spoke about foreign industries being “enriched” at the expense of American jobs.

January 21: Associated Press: Israeli Leader to Iran – Friends or Foe?
Israel's leader has recorded a conciliatory message to the people of Iran, saying, "we are your friend, not your enemy."  In the video uploaded to his Facebook page Saturday, Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the people of Iran in English, with Farsi subtitles. He says he will soon discuss with President Donald Trump how to counter the threat of an Iranian regime that calls for Israel's destruction, but that he distinguishes between the regime and the people.  "You have a proud history. You have a rich culture. Tragically, you are shackled by a theocratic tyranny," he says.

January 16: Fox News: North Korean Defections increase among political elites
More North Koreans are fleeing their country for political reasons, rather than economic reasons, and an increase in defections by Pyongyang’s elite will ultimately weaken Kim Jong Un’s regime, South Korea’s unification minister said in an interview.  Defectors like Thae Yong Ho, the North Korean deputy ambassador in London, whose defection to Seoul last year was the most high-profile in nearly two decades. The support of North Korea’s top government officials is crucial to ensuring Mr. Kim’s continued rule.  More than 30,000 defectors from all walks of life moved south last year.

A crippling famine triggered the first major wave of defectors from North Korea about 20 years ago, but many now say that they are leaving the country “not just because they are starving, but for a better life, and for freedom and for their children’s education,” Mr. Hong said.

January 16: The Hill:  Gitmo Detainees Transferred to Oman
Ten prisoners being held at the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been transferred to Oman. The detainees – whose names and nationalities have not been made public – are being transfered" for a temporary residency and out of consideration of their humanitarian situation," Oman’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement reported by the state-run Oman News Agency.

There has been no announcement about the transfer from the U.S. government, but a defense official confirmed the transfer to the Washington Post. President Obama pledged to close the prison during his tenure, but Congress stalled his efforts. The last-minute transfer comes less than a week before President-elect Trump’s inauguration.

January 13: The UK Telegraph: Obama makes deal with the devil: Sudan Sanctions
Barack Obama was accused of making “a deal with the devil” after he eased sanctions against Sudan on Friday, reversing two decades of policy towards an Islamist regime that massacred its own people and sheltered Osama bin Laden.  The American president signed an executive order that, by relaxing a 20-year-old trade embargo on Khartoum, represents the culmination of a grand rapprochement by his administration towards “rogue” regimes like Iran, Cuba and Burma.

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