Sunday, July 28, 2019

Monday in Washington, July 29, 2019

U.S. CHINA RELATIONS: THE VIEW FROM CITIES AND STATES. 7/29, 9:30-11:45am. Sponsor: Brookings Institution. Speakers: Cheng Li, Director, John L. Thornton China Center, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy; Kate Brown, Governor, State of Oregon; Bob Holden, Former Governor, State of Missouri, Chairman, CEO, United States Heartland China Association; Nina Hachigian, Deputy Mayor, International Affairs, Los Angeles; Reta Jo Lewis, Senior Fellow, Director, Congressional Affairs, German Marshall Fund of the United States; Moderators: Ryan Hass, Fellow, Foreign Policy, John L. Thornton China Center; James Fallows, National Correspondent, The Atlantic.

A CRITICAL EVALUATION OF THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S NUCLEAR WEAPONS POLICIES. 7/29, 9:30-11:00am. Sponsor: Carnegie. Speakers: Lt. Gen. (ret.) Frank Klotz, former administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration, Commander, Air Force Global Strike Command; Corey Hinderstein, Vice President of International Fuel Cycle Strategies, Nuclear Threat Initiative; Kingston Reif, director For Nonproliferation Policy At The Arms Control Association; Thomas Countryman, Chairman Of The Board, The Arms Control Association; Moderator: Lara Seligman, Pentagon Correspondent, Foreign Policy.

DIVIDED RESPONSIBILITY, THE U.S. APPROACH TO SECURITY SECTOR ASSISTANCE IN AFGHANISTAN. 7/29, 11:00am-12:30pm. Sponsor: CSIS International Security Program. Speaker: John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

DEVELOPMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAW AND ENFORCEMENT IN CHINA. 7/29, 11:30am-1:00pm. Sponsors: Environmental Law Institute (ELI), Wilson Center. Speakers: Jeffrey Clark, Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), Department of Justice; Matthew Leopold, General Counsel, Environmental Protection Agency; Jon Brightbill, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, ENRD, Department of Justice. Moderators: Jay Pendergrass, Vice President, Programs and Publications, ELI; Jennifer Turner, Director, China Environment Forum and Manager, Global Choke Point Initiative, Wilson Center.

TURMOIL IN IRAN?: IMPLICATIONS FOR U.S. POLICY. 7/29, 11:45am-1:00pm, Lunch. Sponsor: Hoover Institution. Speaker: Abbas Milani, Research Fellow, Islamism and the International Order Working Group, Hoover Institution.

UKRAINE’S PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS. 7/29, 12:30-2:00pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Atlantic Council. Speakers: Adrian Karatnycky, Senior Fellow, Co-Director, Ukraine in Europe Initiative, Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council; Amb. John Herbst, Director, Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council; Dr. Anders Åslund, Senior Fellow, Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council, Moderator: Melinda Haring, Editor, UkraineAlert, Atlantic Council. 

Friday, July 26, 2019

Northeast Asia unraveling amid US retreat

Bolton and Kono
We are left now watching events unfold in East Asia in the absence of American leadership and a cogent strategy

By Daniel Sneider, Stanford University lecturer, Asia Policy Point member, and associate editor of Washington’s Nelson Report, in which this article originally appeared on July 25, 2019. 

While Americans become increasingly preoccupied with their own domestic descent into dysfunction and political civil war, the rest of the world moves on without them.

The United States is not responsible for much of what we see happening in the world, but the consequences of American retreat from leadership are visible and disturbing. Nowhere is that more evident than in East Asia.

At one moment, we are witnessing multiple challenges to the international order that has maintained peace and stability in the region. Japan and South Korea, the anchors of the American security system, are now locked into a political and economic war without any end.

China and Russia staged an unprecedented joint air patrol right down the heart of the Sea of Japan, simultaneously challenging South Korea, Japan and the United States. North Korea tested a new short-range ballistic missile system, with a message aimed at the US-South Korea military alliance and the happy talk about a new Trump-Kim bargain.

Meanwhile, off in the corner, the Chinese regime is letting both Taiwan and Hong Kong know that the days of “one country, two systems” are almost over.

The Japan-South Korean tensions continue to ratchet upwards. Yesterday at the meeting of the World Trade Organization in Geneva, the two governments exchanged nasty accusations over Japan’s export control measures aimed at supplies of key chemicals from Japanese firms to Korean tech companies.

No talks are scheduled and Japan could move as early as next week to remove Korea from the “white list” that allows for simplified export procedures. Removal would potentially disrupt the entirety of bilateral trade. As the Wall Street Journal reports, American tech firms issued a warning that this “could wreak long-term damage across an already-buckling supply chain.”

Tokyo has massively miscalculated the response to these measures, hiding behind the transparently less than credible claim that this has nothing to do with the long-standing disputes over wartime history issues.

But the Moon Jae-in administration in Seoul lit the fire a year ago by tearing up the 2015 Comfort Women agreement and pushing the Korean courts to move ahead with a decision demanding compensation from Japanese firms for Korean forced laborers and their descendants, potentially a massive claim on the companies’ assets that would effectively cripple bilateral investment.

The impact on security relations is already clear. Quiet cooperation between the militaries of both countries, with US facilitation, was already impaired by an incident last December when a South Korean frigate painted a Japanese patrol aircraft with its fire control radar.

Privately American military officials in the region worry that an exchange of actual fire is now possible. Now Seoul is threatening to withdraw from the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), an intelligence sharing agreement that was brokered by the US. It provides a formal structure for very important cooperation, including the direct exchange of tracking data on North Korean ballistic missile firings.

The impact can be seen in the reaction to the Russian intrusion into Korean airspace and the Sino-Russian joint patrol. These should have been seen as serious challenge to both South Korea and Japan. Instead, both governments spent more time airing their rival claims to the islands that the Russians overflew.

Neither side shows any sign of desiring to bring this fight to a halt. The Moon administration mainly works to try to get the US to take its side. Threats to withdraw from GSOMIA are heavy-handed efforts to do this.

Just listen to the words of Hankyoreh, the leftwing daily close to Blue House: “The US continues to maintain a neutral stance on the South Korea-Japan conflict. But if the conflict continues and starts impacting military issues, the US will inevitably lose out. The South Korean government needs to keep hammering on such points to bring the US around to its side.”

The Japanese government, for its part, is also mainly making its case in Washington, counting on the Abe-Trump relationship to keep the Americans from intervening. Unlike Seoul, the Japanese don’t see US mediation as a goal.

But even Japanese foreign policymakers who blame Moon for this fight recognize the severe danger this represents and see little hope for a diplomatic outcome. “I am more inclined to be very pessimistic, and feel that unless and until the relations become much worse and a great many people realize that such a situation actually damages both of us, we cannot expect any improvement in our bilateral relations,” a senior Japanese foreign ministry official told me privately.

Meanwhile, as we know, the Russians and Chinese chose this moment to mount a joint air patrol of four aircraft, including Russian strategic bombers, on a route down between Japan and Korea.

“Such patrols will become a regular feature under a new agreement soon to be signed between Moscow and Beijing,” Dmitri Trenin, the astute analyst of this relationship at the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote. “Russo-Chinese entente grows thicker.”

Trenin has argued in the past that this entente is not yet an alliance and both countries have different agendas and interests. But both share a common goal in diminishing the US presence and in establishing a new balance of power.

The conservative Seoul daily Chosun Ilbo pointed a finger at the Moon administration for encouraging both Russia and China “to ride roughshod over it” by seeking itself to overturn the Cold War order in the region that had previously united Japan, South Korea and the US against North Korea, China and Russia.

The North Korean regime sensed the same opportunity. The test of two new short-range ballistic missiles was meant to accompany a demand that Seoul back off from a planned joint military exercise with the US At the same time, Pyongyang was sending a message to Washington that if Trump wants a deal to show off on the campaign trail, he will have to come bearing the gifts they demand.

The message was delivered in typical fashion – a sudden decision to call off a trip by North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong Ho to the ASEAN Regional Forum in Bangkok next week, where he was expected to meet Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

As all these events were unfolding, National Security Advisor John Bolton and his Asia director Matt Pottinger traveled for two days to Tokyo and Seoul. There was an expectation, one fed by the NSC itself, that the administration was prepared to seriously intervene into the Japan-ROK dispute. “We’re on it,” this writer was told at senior levels.

Mr. Bolton did raise the issue in his talks in both capitals but he also decidedly avoided any talk of American mediation, on any level, preferring to tell both sides that they should settle their problems. This is not inconsistent with past American responses to these tensions.

“I’ve never had any expectation that Bolton was going to offer to mediate,” Evans Revere, former principal deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, told me. “My understanding is that the key task for him was to convey in both capitals that the current dispute between Seoul and Tokyo was undermining security cooperation in Northeast Asia, negatively affecting US interests, working to North Korea’s advantage – and that its continuation was not acceptable to the United States.

“In that context, Bolton was probably tasked with telling the Japanese and the Koreans to ‘fix’ it.” Revere believes that without any obvious solution to impose, the main goal was “to convince the disputants that there were limits to US patience.”

In the past, this might have had some effect. “That’s how the game has been played before,” a former senior US official told me, “though that doesn’t mean these guys know what they’re doing or care enough.”

One problem with the Bolton/Pottinger effort is that without the clear backing, in public, of the President or at least the Secretary of State, the private concerns conveyed by Bolton and Pottinger have limited impact. The President, as often happens, undercut them by telling reporters before they left that he had no intention to intervene in the conflict.

Second, simply telling the two sides to fix it ignores the fact that they have simply not shown themselves capable of pulling themselves out of the deep holes they have dug. There are steps that can bring this back from the brink – Japan should not remove Seoul from the white list; Seoul should agree to Japan’s proposal to create an arbitration panel under the 1965 treaty to deal with the dispute over compensation for forced laborers. The US should tell both governments to do this, in unambiguous, even angry, fashion.

Finally, Bolton muddied his message by focusing much more on his efforts to push Japan and South Korea to join in some unspecified, as yet, joint maritime security effort in the Persian Gulf.

The Japanese are highly reluctant to go down this road – it is politically very difficult given the requirement to seek parliamentary approval for any collective security mission and the Japanese believe their role is to encourage diplomatic negotiations between Iran and the United States, as Abe did last month in his visit to Tehran.

The South Koreans hinted they may be willing to join this new coalition of the willing, but for very cynical reasons. Not unlike the decision of the last progressive government to join the US war in Iraq, the Moon administration sees some value in using participation, however nominal, in a Gulf operation to leverage US backing vs Japan and for a new North Korea deal.

We are left now watching events unfold in East Asia in the absence of American leadership and a cogent strategy. All the actors – from Moscow, Beijing and Pyongyang to Seoul and Tokyo – feel that reality, and are proceeding on that basis. Meanwhile, Americans are mired in their own mess

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Know your Abe Administration - Directory for Sale

Shinzo Abe
Do you know who's who in Abe's 4th Cabinet, 2nd reshuffle?

Directory of the Abe Administration

Shinzo ABE  created a new Cabinet on November 1, 2017 after his party's landslide victory in the general election held October 22, 2017. This was the fourth time since he was elected Japan’s prime minister for the second time on December 26, 2012. Abe is the first prime minister to launch a fourth Cabinet since October 1952, when then Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida did so.

On October 2, 2018 he reshuffled this Cabinet for the second time. Since then there have been a few resignations and changes.

On Sunday, July 21, 2019, Japan held its Upper House elections. Abe had hoped that his LDP/Komeito coalition would gain two-thirds of the Upper House seats so that he could proceed with his professed plan of revising Japan's postwar Constitution. Although, he still holds a majority of the seats, he did not achieve his goal.

To examine how Abe may again reshuffle or reconstitute his Cabinet--as expected in September 2019--we present you with a directory and analysis of the 80-plus members of his Administration or greater Cabinet. It is designed to be a reference by both ministry and last name.

There is biographical information, legacy highlights, professional history, electoral district data, party and faction affiliations for each official identified. The descriptions also contain links to online primary sources, where available, including Cabinet members’ personal homepages and blogs, their official Diet pages, and their official social media accounts. We also note the incomes of the top ten wealthiest Cabinet members.

This report also identifies each member’s known affiliations with eight prominent conservative nationalist parliamentary leagues, caucuses, and issue groups. Japan’s parliamentary leagues are non-government-managed, semi-permanent groups of Diet members sharing an interest or holding a particular ideological stance.

The 107-page report includes 10 pages of charts, tables, and graphs to help you visualize the extent and depth of the ideology of Abe’s Cabinet.

This 107-page report is free to Asia Policy Point members and congressional staffers. EMAIL US HERE.

👉For all others we ask ONLY for a $25 DONATION: CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOUR COPY.

Monday in Washington, July 22, 2019

TRANSATLANTIC CHOICES: COOPERATION OR CONFLICT? 7/22, 9:15-10:30am. Sponsor: CSIS. Speakers: Dr. Sabine Weyand, Director-General of Trade, European Commission; William A. Reinsch, Senior Fellow, Scholl Chair in International Business, CSIS.

AFRICA, JAPAN, AND THE UNITED STATES. 7/22, 10:00-11:30am. Sponsor: CSIS. Speakers: Ramsey Day, Africa Bureau Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator, USAID; Mathilde Mukantabana, Rwandan Ambassador to the US; Masahiko Kiya, Ambassador for TICAD, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan. Moderator: Judd Devermont, Director, Africa Program, CSIS.

2019 MICHEL CAMDESSUS CENTRAL BANKING LECTURE. 7/22, 10:30am-Noon Washington, DC. Sponsor: International Monetary Fund (IMF). Speakers: David Lipton, Acting Managing Director, IMF; Haruhiko Kuroda, Governor, Bank of Japan; Michel Camdessus, Managing Director, IMF.

LABORATORIES FOR CORRUPTION: HOW SPECIAL INTERESTS ARE DRIVING HARMFUL STATE POLICIES. 7/22, Noon-1:30pm. Sponsor: Center for American Progress (CAP). Speakers: Dinah Sykes, (D-KS), State Senator; Lisa Graves, President, Board of the Center for Media and Democracy, Co-Founder, Documented Investigations; Naomi Walker, Director, Economic Analysis and Research Network, Economic Policy Institute; Danielle Root, Associate Director of Voting Rights for Democracy and Government, CAP. Moderator: Sam Berger, Vice President of Democracy and Government Reform, CAP.

INDONESIA'S APPROACH TO COUNTER TERRORISM: PREVENTION,DE-RADICALIZATION, RE-INTEGRATION. 7/22, 2:30-4:00pm. Sponsor: United States Indonesia Society (USINDO). Speaker: General Suhardi Alius, Head, Indonesia National Counter Terrorism Agency (BNPT).

HOMELAND DEFENSE AND THE ROLE OF NORAD AND USNORTHCOM. 7/22, 3:30-5:00pm. Sponsor: CSIS. Speaker: General Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command, US Northern Command. Moderator: Dr. Kathleen Hicks, Senior Vice President, Henry A. Kissinger Chair, Director, International Security Program, CSIS.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Monday in Washington, July 15, 2019

HOW THE U.S. HELPS ALLIES DEFEND AGAINST DIGITAL ATTACKS ON ELECTIONS. 7/15, Noon. Sponsors: Public Diplomacy Association of America; USC Center on Communication Leadership and Policy; Public Diplomacy Council. Speaker: J. Kenneth Blackwell, Board Chair, International Foundation for Electoral Systems; Vasu Mohan, Regional Director for Asia- Pacific, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES); Dr. Beata Martin-Rozumilowicz, Regional Director for Europe and Eurasia, IFES; Erica Shein, Director for the Center for Applied Research and Learning, IFES.

SPECIAL OPEN FORUM LUNCHEON WITH DR. ANIES BASWEDAN, GOVERNOR OF JAKARTA. 7/15, Noon-2:00pm. Sponsor: US-Indonesia Society (USINDO). Speaker: Dr. Anies Baswedan, Governor of Jakarta. Location: Cosmos Club, 2121 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Powell Room.

click to order
THE LEGALITY OF NUCLEAR DETERRENCE. 7/15, 2:00-4:00pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Carnegie. Speaker: Newell Highsmith, Former Attorney, US Department of State. Moderator: George Perkovich, Ken Olivier and Angela Nomellini Chair and Vice President for Studies, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

LESSONS ON COMPETITION POLICY FROM THE TELEGRAPH TO TWITTER: A BOOK TALK WITH HAROLD FELD, GIGI SOHN AND MIGNON L. CLYBURN. 7/15, 2:00pm. Sponsor: German Marshall of the United States (GMF). Speakers: Harold Feld, Senior Vice President, Public Knowledge; Gigi Sohn, Distinguished Fellow, Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy; Senior Fellow and Public Advocate, Benton Foundation; Mignon L. Clyburn, Former Commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission.

click to order
PROSPECTS FOR U.S.-RUSSIA RELATIONS: A PERSPECTIVE FROM MOSCOW. 7/15, 3:00-4:00pm. Sponsor: CSIS. Speaker: Dmitry Suslov, Deputy Director, Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs, Higher School of Economics. Moderator: Jeffrey Mankoff, Senior Fellow, Russia and Eurasia Program, CSIS.

SHARIA AND THE STATE IN PAKISTAN: BLASPHEMY POLITICS. 7/15, 3:00-5:00pm. Sponsor: Wilson Center. Speakers: author Farhat Haq, Fellow, Professor of Political Science, Monmouth College; Hassan Abbas, Professor and Chair, Department of Regional and Analytical Studies, National Defense University; Anwar Iqbal, Washington DC Correspondent, Dawn newspaper. Moderator: Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director and Senior Associate for South Asia.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

How will the first year of Reiwa go?

With Michael Cucek, Temple University
June 23, 2019

Shinzo Abe is a historic figure.
Solid control over his party and thus the Japanese government.
Put his own person as head of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau 
thus making whatever he wants constitutional.
Abe excellent at abrogating himself to wealthy rightwing men like Trump.
Beloved by Japanese rightwing.
Presents himself as head, however, of the liberal international order.
Eliminate bad news by eliminating Lower House Budget Sessions and 
stop Cabinet Members from speaking to the FCCJ.
Imposing Consumption Tax  in fall will seriously hurt the economy.
Abe will get his constitutional revision by the end of the year to change Article 9.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Japan's Upper House Elections

Is Abe's Nightmare Coming True?

By Daniel Sneider, Lecturer, International Policy at Stanford University and APP member
First appeared in the Toyo Keizai, July 5, 2019

The election campaign for Japan's House of Councilors (July 21) is now in full swing (July 4). At the center of Prime Minister Abe Shinzo's appeal to be given a new mandate, and even to extend his rule, is his claim to "lead the world toward solution of global issues," as the election manifesto proclaims.

Unfortunately for Prime Minister Abe, this claim looks rather hollow at this moment. The G20 summit turned into a platform for prancing authoritarian leaders. Despite Abe's almost desperate attempts to curry favor with the mercurial American President, Donald Trump is now heading toward a deal with North Korea that will leave its nuclear and missile threat to Japan completely intact, while threatening to tear up the US-Japan security treaty that protects Japan. At the same time, Trump seems intent on forcing Japan into a trade agreement that could trigger a recession.

"In diplomacy things don't always go as planned, especially when they involve Typhoon Trump," comments Temple University scholar Jeff Kingston. "There is a long line of people who have been humiliated and diminished by their association with Trump but no other world leader has been so comprehensively embarrassed and belittled as Abe."

The Prime Minister's office is desperately trying to reassure the Japanese public that all is going according to plan, that the President's comments can be ignored or, at worst, are just an attempt to gain electoral advantage. The spin from Kantei has its own electoral purpose.

"Abe knows it is a nightmare," a veteran Japanese political journalist told me, "but he will do whatever it takes to make it look normal. Because admitting that it is a nightmare means that his subservient diplomacy toward Washington has failed miserably."

The G20 Showcase gets cloudy

The Abe administration spent months preparing for the G20 summit in Osaka, intending to use the annual gathering as a showcase for the leadership of Japan, and of the Prime Minister. The Japanese bureaucracy prepared a bundle of measures on digital privacy, environmental protection, climate change and a defense of free trade, all designed to promote the idea of Japan as a guardian of the liberal international order.

Instead the meeting was dominated by a display of Trump's claim to lead the world and his close friendships with authoritarian leaders, from the Saudi Crown Prince to Russia's Putin and China's Xi. The final G20 communique removed any talk of fighting protectionism and settled for bland general statements about free and fair trade.

The summit signaled "an edge towards rule by might," wrote Australian National University scholar Shiro Armstrong. "The Osaka G20 summit may yet be remembered in history as the moment the global rules-based order was lost...The uncertainty that has clouded the global economy over the past few years is child's play compared with what could come now."

The Prime Minister's office got a sense of the dark clouds headed their way when Trump let loose only a couple of days before arriving with another assault on Japan's trade imbalance and repeated long-held views of Japan as a defense free-loader.

The remarks got lots of attention but inside the Prime Minister's office the reaction was calm. "We have gotten quite used to hearing outrageous comments from POTUS (President of the US)," a senior official involved in planning for the summit told me. "In that sense, there has been no 'consternation' in Japan. The Prime Minister did not think it had a serious intention but was a kind of ploy to get more concessions in the trade negotiation."

Still Abe was worried enough about how this would look to the Japanese public that the Prime Minister's Office reportedly curbed the press access to the brief bilateral meeting with Trump, fearful of what the American President would say to reporters. They could not control, however, Trump's final press conference at the end of the G20 summit. There Trump went beyond his earlier statement and told reporters that he had told Abe "for the last six months" that it was time to change the 1960 Japan-US mutual cooperation and security treaty, the foundation of the postwar partnership.

The Prime Minister and his close aides at first denied that any such conversation took place. Now the Abe admits that Trump said this many times in times in private conversation. But there is not evidence this has turned yet into policy.

According to well-informed American sources in close contact with the American military command in Japan, "Trump's call to renegotiate the alliance is news to them." They too see this as mainly an attempt to link security with trade "to gain concessions at the negotiating table."

Negotiations on Japan's contribution to U.S. defense costs in Japan will begin in six months or so and the threat to abandon the alliance is a tactic Trump already used in negotiations with South Korea to force a higher payment.

But the damage has been done. "Trump's latest salvos targeting the Mutual Security Treaty are unsettling for Tokyo and music to the ears of Beijing and Pyongyang while undermining Abe's claims that the bilateral alliance has never been stronger, arguably his sole diplomatic achievement," says Kingston. "Abe has made his desire for amending the war renouncing Article 9 of the constitution the focus of the upcoming upper house election, but now will have to convince voters that this won't mean Japan will have to fight wars at America's behest."

The Kim-Trump shock

Right after Osaka, the Japanese government got hit with another shockwave from Korea when Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in an impromptu mini-summit at the DMZ. Other than the visual imagery of an American president symbolically crossing a few steps into North Korea, the ostensible outcome of this display was an agreement to restart official level talks that have been effectively suspended since the abortive second summit in Hanoi in February.

The Hanoi summit broke down over the exposed gap between the North Korean and U.S. understandings of denuclearization. The North Koreans refused to specify what facilities they were prepared to shut down in the first phases of this process, while insisting that all major sanctions be lifted. The resumption of talks could signal a North Korean willingness to put more on the table.

But it also reflects clear indications from Trump, as well as from special envoy Steve Biegun, that the U.S. is prepared to settle for a much less ambitious version of a freeze agreement, with actual denuclearization set well off into an unspecified future. As the New York Times reported, this would mean accepting North Korea's status as a nuclear weapons state, including its missile delivery systems, while capping any future production. This idea is not new - Japanese officials have been worried about this kind of bad bargain since the summer of 2017.

Senior American officials denied the report - but read more precisely, they denied their own knowledge of and support for this kind of deal. "I have heard nothing resembling what [the New York Times] describes," a senior official who has been directly involved in the North Korea talks told me. "I know [Matt] Pottinger hasn't either," he added, referring to the senior National Security Council Asia director.

In reality, National Security Advisor John Bolton and Pottinger were cut out of the DMZ talks, dispatched on an oddly timed visit to Mongolia. The North Korea operation is now entirely in the hands of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Biegun. The Secretary has tied his future political ambitions entirely to Trump and will not defy him, as Bolton might be tempted to do.

The Prime Minister's office issued ritual support for Trump's latest embrace of Kim, claiming again, without evidence, that abductees were on the agenda and that Japan's advice not to leave a nuclear-armed North Korea with its missiles aimed at Japan is being heard.

But a veteran Seoul-based Western journalist cites reports, not yet confirmed, that "Trump in his private conversation with Kim at Freedom House in the Joint Security Area may have intimated that the U.S. would not insist on N. Korea really giving up all its nukes and missiles and the means to make them."

The coming trade talks

The third nightmare for Abe is likely to be the upcoming bilateral trade talks with the U.S. With the China negotiations now moved away from the brink, American negotiators, led by Robert Lighthizer, will be able to focus on Japan. And the signals are clear that Trump wants to push hard for an agreement to limit Japanese auto exports to the U.S. "With Japan, we're negotiating with them because they send us millions of cars and we send them wheat," Trump told reporters in Osaka. "Doesn't work."

The Japanese negotiators see this coming. "I am a bit tired of hearing Amb Lighthizer and President Trump making one-sided demands," a senior member of the Japanese trade negotiating team told me. "I hope we can stand firm and defend the 'red line' for us in the end."

A restraint agreement for Japanese auto exports would be a disaster for a Japanese economy already feeling the effects of the China-US trade war and facing a sales tax increase in the fall. But for now, Abe needs to preserve the image of a close and friendly alliance with the U.S.

"Abe thinks that a good relationship with Washington gets more votes in Japan, no matter what president sits in the White House," the veteran Japanese journalist said. Winning the election and staying in power is the key goal, he noted harshly, even if means "whitewashing the grave peril of worldwide populism."

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Monday in Washington, July 8, 2019

GAMBLING WITH VIOLENCE: NON-STATE ACTORS AND OUTSOURCING OF VIOLENCE IN KASHMIR. 7/8, 2:00pm. Sponsor: Atlantic Council. Speakers: Yelena Biberman, Nonresident Senior Fellow, South Asia Center, Atlantic Council; Aparna Pande, Director, Initiative on the Future of India and South Asia, Hudson Institute; Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director and Senior Associate for South Asia, Wilson Center; Moderator: Shuja Nawaz, Distinguished Senior Fellow, South Asia Center, Atlantic Council.

THE NATIONAL SECURITY THREAT OF AUTHORITARIAN CORRUPTION: HOW DICTATORS, TERRORISTS, AND CRIMINALS ABUSE FREE MARKETS. 7/8, 3:00-4:00pm. Sponsor: AEI. Speakers: Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, Professor, New York University; Daniel Twining, President International Republican Institute, Moderator: Clay R. Fuller, Jeane Kirkpatrick Fellow, AEI.

INDIA REFORMS SCORECARD LAUNCH RECEPTION. 7/8, 5:30-7:00pm. Sponsor: CSIS. Speaker: Richard M. Rossow, Senior Adviser and Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies. No live webcast