Monday, June 25, 2018
The West Loses Turkey but Trump Works to Bring into the Fold Both China and North Korea
THE REAL NEWS TODAY IS IN TURKEY, CHINA, AND NORTT KOREA. The stories are very different. • • • WE CAN SAY GOOD-BYE TO A WEST-LEANING TURKEY. The BBC reported : "Turkey's long-standing leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, now 64 years old, has won a new five-year term after securing outright victory in the first round of a presidential poll. Mr Erdogan got nearly 53% with almost all votes counted. His closest rival Muharrem Ince was on 31%....Ince, from the Republican People's Party (CHP), has accused state-run news agency Anadolu of 'manipulation' over its reporting of vote-share figures. There were another four candidates on the presidential ballot, all of whom fell below 10% of the vote. The opposition is yet to officially concede but said it would continue its democratic fight 'whatever the result.'....Final results will be announced on Friday." • Erdogan will now assume sweeping new powers, won in a controversial referendum last year that was won by Ergodan with 51% backing, says the BBC, adding that the post of PM will be abolished. • The Turkish election was the most fiercely fought in many years. Erdogan had a lot of positive talking points -- a strong economy and a solid support base he created by investing in healthcare, education and infrastructure. But, Erdogan has also polarized opinion by cracking down on opponents and putting 160,000 people in jail. His routing of freedom of the press and arrests of journalists has not made him popular with the more moderate stata of Turkish society. • At 3 AM Monday morning local time, Erdogan gave a triumphant victory speech from the balcony of his party's headquarters in the capital Ankara, declaring : "The winner of this election is each and every individual among my 81 million citizens." Congratulations rolled in from Islamic leaders including Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Russian President Vladimir Putin talked of Mr Erdogan's "great political authority and mass support." • Erdogan was prime minister for 11 years before becoming president in 2014. Under the new constitution, he could stand for a third term when his second finishes in 2023, meaning he could potentially hold power until 2028. Critics argue the enhanced role of the president will place too much power in one person's hands, and that Turkey's new system lacks the checks and balances of other executive presidencies like France or the US. Erdogan maintains his increased authority will empower him to address Turkey's economic woes and defeat Kurdish rebels in the country's south-east. In his victory speech, he said Turkey would act more firmly against terrorist groups, and would continue to "liberate Syrian lands" so refugees could return to their homes there. • Mark Lowen, a BBC Turkey correspondent, reports : "Despite 90% of the media being pro-government and largely shunning the opposition, the president's posters and flags dwarfing any challenge on the streets, the election being held under a state of emergency curtailing protests, and critical journalists and academics being jailed or forced into exile, Mr Erdogan only got half of the country behind him. 'We are living through a fascist regime,' the opposition MP Selin Sayek Boke told the BBC. 'But fascist regimes don't usually win elections with 53%, they win with 90%. So this shows that progressive values are still here and can rise up.' For now, though, this is Mr Erdogan's time. With his sweeping new powers, scrapping the post of prime minister and able to choose ministers and most senior judges, he becomes Turkey's most powerful leader since its founding father Ataturk. He'll now hope to lead the country at least until 2023, a hundred years since Ataturk's creation. And a dejected opposition will have to pick itself up and wonder again if, and how, he can be beaten." • The BBC reported tight security at polling stations : "Ahead of the vote, concerns had been raised about potential voter intimidation and electoral fraud. Voter turnout was high at almost 87%, the state broadcaster Anadolu. Rights activists have said the press is not free to report on all sides in Turkey. It has become the world's biggest jailer of journalists under Mr Erdogan's rule, according to monitoring groups. Mr Erdogan has already cautioned his rivals against claiming foul play, saying: 'I hope nobody will try to cast a shadow on the results and harm democracy in order to hide their own failure.' " • Europe has dithered for more than a generation about whether to give Turkey the chance to become an EU member state, or at least have a special relationship with Europe. This was a matter of discussion long before Erdogan took the reins of Turkish politics in his hands. France has always loudly rejected these proposals, all the while welcoming legal and illegal migrants whose political and religious views mimick Erdogan's. Germany has, for good reasons, remained on the fence about Turkey -- there are 10 million Turks living in Germany, brought in because Germany needed and needs workers. And, German Chancellor Angela Merkel looked to Erdogan to bail out of her self-inflicted open border catastrophe in 2015, finally negotiating alone without asking for help from the EU to pay Turkey upwards of €7 billion to hold and house migrants on their way to Germany as illegals or asylum seekers -- and to seal the western borders of Turkey so that these migrants could not sneak into an EU country and claim asylum. The deal has its rather gaping flaws, but it is working resonably well if saving Merkel from her open-border fiasco is the goal. I bring this up because Europe has routinely taken the position that Turkey is not and can never be "European" -- as if France's enclaves of Moslems are "European." In fact, Germany's Turkish residents are often very "European" and were generally opposed to Merkel's open door. The United States, during both Republican and Democrat presidencies -- at least until Obama -- urged the EU to negotiate a place for Turkey in the EU, as a member or as a special neighbor, reminding Europe that Turkey is a key NATO member and provides the eastern frontier of NATO's defenses. The US has critical airbases in Turkey that provide cover for Syrian and Iraq operations. But, as we often witness, Europe has its own insular approach to most of the non-EU world. So, Turkey was rejected. And, Erdogan decided to look for neighbors and allies elsewhere. His pro-Islamic positions, his general rejection of Israel, his attempts to undo the secularization so well anchored in Ataturk's Turkish consititution, his personal preference for radical Islam being foisted on Turkish citizens as security-based -- all these actions are somewhat reactions -- to being rejected by Europe. The world and Turkish citizens will now pay the heavy price of a Turkey officially ambivalent about western values and NATO's role in the country that will put European defenses at risk on its easern flank. Erdogan's courting of Russia's Putin, his deals with the ayatollahs of Iran, his on-again-off-again relationship with Israel, all will continue and undoubtedly get worse. And, Europe will shout -- see, we told you so, Turkey is Islamic and does not deserve to be in the EU because of its human rights record. Sigh !!! As with most issues, Europe cannot see that it is often its own shortsighted policies that cause the problems that it then cites as the reason for its policies. • • • TRUMP SENDS HIS BIG GUN TO CHINA FOR MILITARY EVALUATIONS. The Washington Free Beacon reported on Monday that the Department of Defense has announced that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is enroute to China. It will be his first visit to China. The Free Beacon wrote : "Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will make his first visit to China this week for talks with Chinese military leaders amid growing tensions over China's militarization of islands in the South China Sea. Mattis told reporters aboard an Air Force E-4B jet, en route to northern Alaska that he plans to gauge China's strategic approach to the United States during talks in Beijing. 'On our relations with China, obviously we're reviewing our military-to-military relationship [to] make sure it's aligned within our larger strategic framework,' Mattis said. The Defense Secretary described the upcoming meetings in China, which will include talks with senior generals, as an exchange on 'strategic perspectives' on topics of mutual concern to 'determine where we have common interest and where our interests diverge.' • Under Mattis, the Pentagon for the first time in decades identified China, along with Russia, as a strategic military threat under a new national defense strategy made public in January. The strategy labeled China a strategic competitor, reflecting the new White House national security strategy that has focused on economic and trade threats posed by Beijing's unfair policies. • The visit to China will be key, coming as the US issues warnings about China's recent deployment of advanced antiship missiles and air-defense missiles on disputed islands in the South China Sea. The Free Beacon says "the missile emplacements violate a September 2015 pledge by Xi, announced during a summit with then-President Barack Obama, that China would not militarize the disputed islands. The islands also are claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, and several other states in the region. China has built up some 3,200 acres of new islands in the sea over the past several years and quietly added military facilities, including runways, bunkers, storage areas, and recently missiles. As a result of the missile deployments, the Pentagon blocked China from sending navy ships to take part in the upcoming US-led international naval exercise called Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC. Mattis is scheduled to arrive in China as naval forces from more than two dozen nations kick off the exercises later this week. The timing of the Mattis visit coinciding with the start of RIMPAC will likely be viewed by the Chinese as further highlighting the snub of the PLA Navy." But, Mattis says of RIMPAC that : "The idea is to maintain transparency, to maintain understanding what each other is doing. Navies can be one of the most stabilizing influences in terms of counter piracy, freedom of navigation, disaster relief, humanitarian support." • Recently, several US warship passages in the South China Sea were met with Chinese warships that tried to force the Navy vessels out of the region. China also recently fired a laser at US military aircraft flying near a Chinese military base in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa. The laser injured the eyes of two aircrew members aboard C-130 transport aircraft flying to a nearby US base. China in recent months also has increased its military coercion of Taiwan, an American ally, by flying bombers near the island, which is located 100 miles off the Chinese southern coast. • Mattis, according to the Free Beacon, declined to characterize US-China tensions over the South China Sea, Taiwan, and Beijing's theft of American technology as the beginning of a new Cold War : "We have larger issues and you see those being handled." Mattis told reporters he believes China shares the US interest of seeking a denuclearized Korean Peninsula : "That's their policy. But by and large I want to go in and take a measure for where they're at today and see where our interests converge. At the same time I'm going in to do the listening this time and make certain that where we can, we can engage in a transparent strategic conversation.....that's the whole reason I'm making the trip, instead of just sitting in Washington and reading news reports, intelligence reports, or analysts' reports." • • • TRUMP CALLS OUT CHINESE US INVESTMENTS AS PART OF TRADE ISSUE. CNBC said Monday that : "The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that President Donald Trump plans to bar several Chinese companies from making investments in US tech. The newspaper also reported that the administration wants to block additional technology exports to China. Both measures are expected to be announced by the end of the week. Increasing trade tensions between the US and its key trade partners, including China, have kept Wall Street on edge. But, late on Monday afternoon, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called the WSJ's story "fake news." He also said that investment restrictions against China and other countries are not immediately forthcoming and that the falling market was overreacting, and he added that measures will impact not just China, but all countries "that are trying to steal our technology." • Meanwhile, the Hong Kong based South China Morning Post reported on Sunday that Beijing "won’t target" US firms in China to hit back at US President Donald Trump’s trade threats. The SCMP says Chinese authorities are "keen to reassure foreign businesses in China and retaliation against them has "never been on the cards," quoting Chinese government sources. One source said : "A big worry for China is that foreign investors are opting to leave the country. The option of targeting US firms in China has never been on the cards.” Chinese President Xi Jinping held a roundtable with foreign business executives last Thursday and promised that China’s market would remain open. The source said this “sent a very clear message from the top leadership” that US firms were still welcome. • The SCMP says that since China’s total imports of US products were US$130 billion in 2017, it would be practically impossible for Beijing to impose tariffs on the same scale of US products, leading to suggestions that Beijing might restrict US investment and tell Chinese companies not to do business with American firms. A SCMP source said this option was not under consideration while China was still trying to de-escalate the tensions : "China talks tough but treads warily in tackling Donald Trump’s trade threats. US companies had an outstanding US$256 billion in investment in China by the end of last year, exceeding China’s outstanding investment of US$140 billion in the United States, according to a report by the National Committee of US-China Relations and Rhodium Group in April. Chinese investment in the United States dropped to US$29 billion in 2017 from US$46 billion in 2016, but the flow was still twice the level of US investment in China last year, according to the same report." • Efforts by both sides to defuse the tensions are continuing before the first batch of tariffs on Chinese products comes into effect on July 6. Sources told the SCMP that one of Beijing’s key negotiators, commerce vice-minister Wang Shouwen, had spoken to US businesses in China in search of a last-minute compromise. National Economic Council staff in Washington had also contacted former US government officials and China experts in recent days to assess the chances for high-level talks in the next two weeks that would include Vice-President Wang Qishan, Bloomberg reported, citing unidentified sources. • Money and Markets reported early last week that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Detroit Economics Club that China is engaging in “predatory economics 101” and an “unprecedented level of larceny” of intellectual property. He said China’s recent claims of “openness and globalization” are “a joke,” adding that China is a “predatory economic government” that is “long overdue in being tackled,” on matters that include IP theft and Chinese steel and aluminum flooding the US market. “Everyone knows...China is the main perpetrator,” he said. “It’s an unprecedented level of larceny. Just ask yourself : Would China have allowed America to do to it what China has done to America?” Pompeo raised the trade issue directly with China last week, when he met in Beijing with President Xi Jinping and others. Pompeo said : "I reminded him that’s not fair competition." Pompeo described US actions as “economic diplomacy,” which, when done right, strengthens national security and international alliances. We use American power, economic might and influence as a tool of economic policy. We do our best to call out unfair economic behaviors as well.” • • • CHINA'S RESPONSES. The South China Morning Post published an Opinion piece on Monday by Gustavo Oliveira, geographer and political ecologist at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, about China's soybean imports, saying that timing, huge demand and structural bottlenecks diminish Brazil’s reliability as a backup soybean supplier to China. Oliveira wrotes : "Boycotting US soybeans by turning to Brazil’s bumper harvest seems like an ace in the hole for Beijing, since soybeans alone account for 10% of total US exports to China. Moreover, destabilizing US agricultural exports could turn the traditionally conservative and soy-dependent American Midwest against the Republican Party in November’s midterm elections. After all, China’s gargantuan market accounts for 65% of global soybean imports; thus, without being able to offload its harvest to China, the economy of the US Midwest would essentially risk collapse." • But can China count on Brazil to substitute US soybeans? Oliveira says 'no'....First, seasons alternate between the northern and southern hemispheres. So while US soybeans are harvested from late September through November, Brazilians gather in their soybean crops from February through May. This distinction means the recent sabre rattling between Washington and Beijing has taken place during the Brazilian harvest-and-export season, when abundant supplies enable Chinese companies to avoid US imports....This dynamic will shift after September, however, when Brazilian harvests are mostly exported, and international buyers must turn instead to US supplies. Second, total annual demand for soybeans in China exceeds Brazilian export capacity. In fact, it exceeds global export capacity, excluding the US crop. At 97 million tonnes, China’s soybean imports in 2017-18 account for 30% of total production in the rest of the world, gobbling up almost the equivalent of total production in the US (119.5 million tonnes) and Brazil (119 million tonnes). But Brazilian processors must crush at least 43 million tonnes of their soybeans domestically to supply the country’s world-leading livestock sector, leaving only 76 million tonnes for export. That is 21 million tonnes short of China’s demand. The next largest producer, Argentina, produces merely 37 million tonnes, down from 57.8 million tonnes last year due to severe drought. To meet the needs of its domestic processors and European demand for soy oil and meal, however, Argentina is already tapping its stocks, leaving almost nothing for China." • Brazilian stocks are also very low, hovering below 2% of domestic supply since 2013. so, says Oliveira, to prevent a trade war, "Beijing may agree to import a larger share of US soybeans, much to the chagrin of Chinese companies that have invested in Brazil and broken the US suppliers’ monopoly. If tariffs take effect next month, there will certainly be record Chinese imports from Brazil, and US soybean exports will realign to Europe and other smaller markets. But Chinese buyers will still need to swallow some high-tariff US soybeans." • Oliveira also points out the factthat Brazilian exports face significant structural bottlenecks and political instability, noting last month's massive truck drivers’ strike that paralysed the country for 11 days. In addition, according to Oliveira, "political upheaval may grip Brazil this October, when general elections proceed without the most popular candidate, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, barred on corruption charges widely seen as politically motivated. Another wave of massive strikes could curtail Brazilian exports -- precisely when US suppliers gain the upper hand." • The SCMP also noted on Monday that : "China’s central bank said on Sunday it would unlock at least US$100 billion for the country’s lenders to bail out troubled state firms and to help small businesses, as Beijing tries to shore up growth under the shadow of a trade war with the United States. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said in a statement it would cut the reserve requirement ratio, the share of deposits lenders must put aside with the central lender, for commercial banks by half a percentage point from July 5. The cut would free up 500 billion yuan (US$76.86 billion) in funds for the big banks, including Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and China Construction Bank, to finance debt-to-equity swaps, a measure often used for troubled state enterprises. It would also free up 200 billion yuan for smaller banks to boost lending to small businesses across the country, the central bank said. The move is a 'targeted operation' aimed at supporting the weak links in the economy and not a change to the country’s 'neutral and prudent' monetary policy stance, the PBOC said." Although the PBOC statement did not mention China’s trade row with the US, or its recently released weaker economic indicators that are worrisome to more than America, the reduction in the reserve ratio will come into effect a day before the first of President Trump’s additional tariffs on Chinese products are due to be implemented. • Deng Haiqing, a visiting scholar at Renmin University of China, wrote in a note that the PBOC’s move represented a significant shift in China’s policy, and was not just fine-tuning : “The authorities have started to see the pain inflicted on the real economy from deleveraging, and they are trying to reduce it." Beijing has been rolling out its debt-for-equity scheme across the country since 2016, says SCMP, and the deal involves state companies borrowing money from the big banks to reduce their debt levels, but if they fail to repay their loans, part of the debt can be restructured as an equity stake. While the scheme has been very popular among banks and state firms, the PBOC said big lenders were running short of funding for it. It also said that banks should not use the funds to help 'zombie companies.' " • Shao Yu, the chief economist with Orient Securities in Shanghai, wrote in a brief note that the funds, once released by the central bank into the commercial banking system, may flow into places that the central bank doesn’t like. Shao wrote : "It’s a very twisted way of supplying liquidity -- although the central bank always wants released funds to flow into places where it wants to see, the results can be very different.” • According to SCMP, China’s economic expansion has slowed sharply in recent months with investment and retail sales growth in May falling to their lowest levels in decades. Meanwhile, China’s stock market plunged to two-year lows after Trump escalated trade threats last week. A flurry of bond defaults also took place in China’s onshore market this year, reflecting financial stresses as the central bank kept liquidity supply tight. Tan Han, a fixed-income analyst at Guotai Junan, a Chinese brokerage, wrote in a note that a cut in required reserve ratio alone can’t make a fundamental change to China’s economic and financial situation, and Beijing needs to roll out other policies, such as proactive fiscal spending, to bolster growth." • So, Trump's decision to force China to stop its predatory trading practices not only comes at a bad moment in China's economy, but it also comes with negative implications for soybeans, one of China's largest food crop imports, for its currency, and for the PBOC's efforts to re-fund China's debt-ridden smaller businesses. • • • IS CHINA 2018 LIKE JAPAN 1989? American Thinker published an article last Wednesday that notes the similarities between China's economy today and Japan's in the 1980s. The article quotes "China's Next Ten Years" by Roy C. Smith of NYU’s Stern School of Business in the summer 2018 Independent Review. Smith writes : "Thirty years ago, Japan’s borrowing was out of control, expanding factories and building at an insane pace. A single plot of land in Tokyo was worth more than the entire state of California. Their educational system was flawless, and their exports became ever more sophisticated. We in the west were stunned by Japanese successes and wanted to emulate them. Then in 1989, the Japanese economy imploded. Real estate prices went into the toilet, zombie corporations all owned each other, the Nikkei dropped from 40,000 to 7,000 and stayed there, and stubborn deflation marred a generation. Young people were not able to get jobs, to marry, or to have kids." Today, says Smith : "China, the factory of the world, is financially leveraged to the hilt. There are banks and shadow banks and no one seems to know how much has been borrowed or how many loans are in default. Regional potentates arrange for development with money that they don’t have. Decisions on what is produced and ideals that are to be pursued (like the touted turn toward 'high tech') are made by political bosses who get their clues from the doctrinaire NYT and Economist." • American Thinker asks whether "Donald Trump is helping make the inevitable Chinese internal market collapse occur sooner than later? He may, probably consciously, be arranging the cash-flow crisis, factory closures, and joblessness that will destroy the Chinese economy. Smith argues : "Let’s assume that President Trump imposes an incremental 25% tariff on Chinese goods imported to the USA....We would have to make stuff ourselves and the protected producers could raise prices of manufactured goods by the 25% of the tariffs since that’s the extent to which they will be protected from market forces, but the increases are only on the manufacturing costs and should raise the retail prices by a measly 2.5%. The impact in the USA should not be that severe. The increased costs would be cheaper than any shooting war in the Far East." • Never underestimate Trump and his inner circle of advisors. As I noted after the Singapore summit with North Korea, the real answers to where Kim Jong-un's future lies for his country will be played out not on the Korean peninsula but between the United States and China. • • • SPEAKING OF NORTH KOREA. American Thinker's editor Thomas Lifson published an article on Sunday titled "North Korea ditches anti-US propaganda." Lifson points out what few are talking about -- North Korea is no longer brainwashing its subjects that the US is a mortal danger. Lifson writes : "In a potent signal that Kim Jong-un has succeeded in persuading the rest of his regime to go along with denuclearization and ending its rogue regime status, North Korea has reversed course on its indoctrinating of the domestic populace. Anyone in the least bit curious about whether or not North Korea’s promises at Singapore to President Trump are real or not ought to be celebrating this as major news." Lifson notes that only non-US and pro-Trump US media are reporting the NK propaganda shift -- the BBC, Russia’s Sputnik News, and the New York Post. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and other US mainstream media are completely uninterested. Lifson quotes the BBC: "Over the past few months, it seems, North Korea's propaganda has been changing its tune. Banners and posters displayed across the capital and other towns have typically featured the US as a brutal imperialist aggressor and South Korea or Japan as Washington's willing allies. But visitors to the country say they've seen those posters replaced by propaganda pushing economic progress and the inter-Korean rapprochement. Leading newspapers in the tightly controlled country have also seen a shift in tone, a sign the country is starting to reflect its recent diplomatic thaw to the people. The vast majority of North Koreans have very little access to information, so state media and propaganda have a far greater impact than elsewhere in the world. With the US traditionally depicted as the main enemy, propaganda has not held back on showing how Pyongyang would respond, depicting missiles destroying the US or troops crushing invaders. The posters are meant to inspire patriotism, build confidence in the leadership and a give sense that the struggles of life are for the greater glory of the nation." Lifson shows an old line, anti-US propaganda, a poster from an elementary school featured in Wikipedia -- it shows schoolchildren shooting an American soldier. But, as the New York Post indicates : "Gone are the posters depicting the US as a 'rotten, diseased, pirate nation' and promising 'merciless revenge' on American forces for an imagined attack on the totalitarian country. In their place are cheery messages touting and praising the prospects for Korean reunification and the declaration Kim signed in April with South Korean President Moon Jae-in promising 'lasting peace,' according to reports." Lifson's example of a post-Singapore propaganda poster (DPRK News via BBC) shows pure white children holding and releasing white doves over a Korean peninsula that is a flourishing green tree. Again Lifson quotes the BBC : "The BBC points out how unusual is the disappearance of anti-US propaganda : 'All the anti-American posters I usually see around Kim Il-sung Square and at shops, they've all just gone,' Rowan Beard, a tour manager at Young Pioneer Tours, told the Reuters news agency. 'In five years working in North Korea, I've never seen them completely disappear before.'....Even the anti-American trinkets which used to be sold to tourists as souvenirs have begun to change. No longer, for instance, can you find the postcards, posters or stamps that famously showed North Korean missiles heading for Washington. 'They're always very popular, not very subtle, and, as of now, have all been removed,' Simon Cockerell, general manager at Koryo Tours, told Reuters.....'In tone, the US is now depicted as if it is a normal country,' explains Peter Ward, North Korea expert and writer for NK News. 'All references to US actions that North Korea considers a hostile acts have disappeared from the paper.' There's even what Mr Ward describes as 'neutral' coverage of the US quitting the UN human rights council.' " • As Lifson says : "If President Trump succeeds, as looks increasingly likely, what will all the bureaucrats who have built careers on the 'peace process' with North Korea do to earn a living? Where will their journalist friends go to get valuable anonymous sources on the never-ending process? The answers to these questions are obvious, and explain why the news embargo on North Korea continues in the mainstream media." • • • DEAR READERS, if the shift in propaganda doesn't fully convince you of Kim's good intent, consider this as reported by Epoch Times : "On June 24, the US military said they had moved about 100 wooden coffins to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. The move comes in preparation for North Korea’s return of the remains of American soldiers who have been missing since the 1950-1953 Korean War." That same day, 158 metal transfer cases were sent to the US air base near Seoul, the capital of South Korea, and would also be used to send the remains home, US Forces Korea spokesman Colonel Chad Carroll said. Carroll told the Associated Press that plans for the repatriation were 'still preliminary,' and denied a report from South Korea’s Yonhap news agency that US military vehicles were carrying over 200 coffins and planning to cross into North Korea on Saturday." • President Trump said after the Singapore summit on June 12 that Kim had agreed to return the remains. Previously, US officials and Trump himself said that the remains are believed to be some or all of the more than 200 complete sets of remains that the North Koreans have had for some time. However, the precise number and the identities -- including whether they are US or allied troops -- won’t be known until the remains are tested, reported AP." More than 35,000 Americans died on the Korean Peninsula and 7,702 are still missing in action, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Of those, an estimated 5,300 are believed to be in North Korea. North Korean officials have indicated in the past that they have the remains of as many as 200 US troops. A prior repatriation agreement between the United States and Korea stalled in 2005 due to political tensions. The deal had lasted for 15 years, allowing the United States to recover 229 sets of remains and identify scores of others. • In his press conference while enroute to China; Defense Secretary Mattis told reporters the UN Command in South Korea is prepared for North Korea to turn over remains of soldiers killed during the Korean War : "We're optimistic it will be done because that was an agreement coming out of Singapore." • Perhaps just to keep the pressure up a tad on both China and North Korea, Secretary Mattis stopped on his way the China to visit Fort Greely, Alaska, the location of American ground-based interceptors -- part of the anti-missile system that would be used to counter any North Korean missile attack. Currently, 40 ground-based interceptors are deployed and more are being added. • It is, as my friends often tell me these days, good to have a President who actively pursues America's interests wherever they lead, and to know that he has, unlike his predecessor, excellent relations not only with America's military but also with the many nations around the world that look to America and her military for leadership and support.