Bristling Brock speaks out...

 

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Maybe I've missed something significant in the reporting but Donald Trump seems to have pulled out of his planned summit with the North Koreans just because they didn't respond quickly enough to some of his terms and conditions.   If I have missed that crucial explanation then ignore the following commentary but as I read it the chronology of events runs something like this:-

South & North Koreans agree an official end to the Korean War - Trump agrees to a face-to-face summit with Kim Il Un - South Korea & the US then stage military exercises just south of the DMZ - North Korea objects saying this is not in the spirit of what was agreed and is provocative - the US then lists assorted T's & C's that the summit must address and at the same time North Korea publicly blows up some of the nuclear installations at the heart of the dispute - the US Secretary of State continues to prep the way for the summit to go ahead but North Korea shows signs of concern at US attempts to dominate the summit - the US Vice-President then blurts out that unless they get their way the whole saga is likely to go the way of Libya, ie, regime change - the US President then calls the summit off but publicly tries to make it sound as though they've been forced to make the decision.

Now to a simple soul like me this is hugely bad diplomacy in a situation where cultural recognition and sensitivities are raw and open to misunderstanding.   Holding military exercises under the noses of the North Koreans is unquestionably provocative, dictating the agenda to the North Koreans shows a fundamental ignorance of the cultural ways of the Orient and with a senior official like Pence alluding to regime change then it's no wonder the North Koreans have sat back and pondered the way of things for longer than suits the US.   I have no bias for North Korea at all - their regime is alien to everything we in the West understand - but it is that very failing - understanding - that has precipitated a poor diplomatic and political judgement by the US.   If this was just a spat between North Korea and the US and without a prospect of collateral involvement of other nations then we might shrug our shoulders and let them grunt on and work it out themselves.   That a sensitive nuclear face-off is being re-kindled will inevitably embrace other nations and if the worst were to happen then the cost to humanity would be unacceptably high.   The UN is meaningless in this debate so it is up to the thinking nations of the world to make sure that the US does not act unilaterally and create a situation it cannot possibly emerge victorious from.   The US is powerful - nobody can deny that - but with power comes responsibility.  And that requires wise heads in both Washington and Pyongyang.  We cannot influence Pyongyang but we should certainly try and influence the US to stop behaving like school bullies and start thinking about a peaceful solution to the situation.

Nearer home, the Gallileo satellite system has got tempers flaring both in Brussels and London.  Quite rightly, the UK has declared that if it is to be denied access to the system after Brexit then we should have our financial contribution to it returned to us - around a £1 billion.   Equally, the UK has declared that its absence from the Gallileo programme will compromise European security and defence co-ordination and that the EU hasn't got the technical skill to 'replace' Britain in the ongoing satellite development.   All good stuff so far.    What is a little more eyebrow twitching - apart from the naivety of the political clowns in Brussels - is that Mrs May has robustly declared that if not Gallileo, the UK will build its own system to replace it, possibly in conjunction with the US.   Sounds good, doesn't it ?   However, since when have the Americans shared anything of value with Britain ?  There is no way that any new satellite system of this type involving the Americans will be a partnership of equals both in terms of information sharing and in the technologies being used.   Any deal will almost certainly mean that the system would be built in the US - billions of British £'s flowing into the US who get the rights to the technology and the manufacturing employment that results.   I'm all for giving 'the finger' to the EU - they are mind-bogglingly stupid on all Brexit matters - but let us work with a partner who we trust and believe in if we are to build an entirely new satellite network.   The US doesn't cut-it - never has.

There is growing concern that some sort of war between an Israeli-Saudi-US coalition and Iran with possibly Russian and Chinese support is brewing.  With the US having withdrawn from the Iranian nuclear agreement the focus is again upon oil - its availability, its price and its production in a region that dominates two-thirds of the worlds supply.   What a mixed up alliance this could turn out to be.   Israel, with US support, gets away with virtually any military action it chooses to take; Saudi, a Sunni state, is already involved in a nasty military adventure in Yemen and only sees alliance advantage with Israel because of its hatred of Shia's in Iran and its desire to eradicate that brand of Islam; the US needs oil from Saudi (if not from Iran) and has an unstinting kinship with Israel which has played a part in the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement.   What an unholy bunch.   Iran may lean toward Russia if matters deteriorate but Russia, as ever, plays both sides and has sought agreement for OPEC to increase production of oil - and for OPEC read Saudi.  No war is simple, but one such as this could turn into a real mess.   Let us hope diplomacy wins out here - the alternatives are as unthinkable as any nuclear Armageddon.