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Pakistan Could Easily Become a Nuclear Hazard

By Lisa Curtis

Lisa CurtisWASHINGTON D.C., March 20: Michael Krepon, co-founder of the U.S.-based Stimson Center, whose views are widely respected both in South Asia and in Washington, has written a thought-provoking piece on the future of U.S. policy toward Pakistan.

In the article, Krepon argues in favor of a status quo U.S. policy toward Pakistan that relies solely on inducements and engagement, rather than exerting pressure on Pakistan.

Krepon acknowledges that this policy approach has been ineffective in convincing Pakistan to crack down on some terrorist groups that endanger core U.S. national security interests in the region. Nonetheless, he argues for a status quo policy that does not levy consequences on Pakistan for continued support to international terrorist groups.

Krepon’s main reason rests largely on the idea that the nuclear issue is more important than the terrorism issue. Krepon seems to believe that if the U.S. penalizes Pakistan for its continued support for some terrorist groups, the U.S. will lose leverage over Pakistan in keeping its nuclear weapons safe and secure.

Krepon also argues that “the future of Pakistan is more important to the United States than the future of Afghanistan.”

Both of these assertions rely on false choices and confuse the problem at hand.

One of the primary U.S. concerns regarding Pakistan’s nuclear weapons is the danger that they could fall into terrorist hands. A second concern is that Pakistan would use its nuclear weapons in a potential conflict with India.

Additionally, if the Taliban make further territorial gains in Afghanistan—aided by having a sanctuary inside Pakistan—this will facilitate the revival of al-Qaeda in the region and boost the morale of Islamist extremists across the globe.

These are three potentially very dangerous scenarios that the U.S. must work to prevent. Putting pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terrorist groups within its territory is key to making sure these scenarios don’t come to pass.

Krepon’s status quo policy would likely lead to the growth of anti-India terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which conducted the 2008 Mumbai attacks that nearly led to military conflict between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

Moreover, U.S. acquiescence to Pakistan’s continued support for some terrorist groups would allow an overall conducive environment for terrorism to thrive in the country—something that puts Pakistan’s long-term stability at risk.

It is precisely because of these dangers—the threat of an Indo-Pakistani conflict that could go nuclear, the potential nexus between terror and nuclear weapons, instability of the Pakistani state from the blowback of supporting terrorism, and the need to stabilize Afghanistan—that the U.S. must adopt a more pointed policy approach with Islamabad.

This line of reasoning is spelled out in a report that I drafted with former Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani and with input from several other U.S.-based Pakistan experts.

The report recommends the Trump administration take a sharper, more clear-eyed policy approach toward Pakistan that includes consequences for Pakistani failure to rein in terror groups that threaten stability in Afghanistan, as well as raise tensions with India. Consequences should include things like enforcing conditions on military aid and revoking Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally.

The report stops short of recommending that the U.S. declare Pakistan to be a state sponsor of terrorism this year—though it recommends keeping that option open for the future.

I have stated my personal opposition to doing this on numerous occasions. Designating Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism would preclude the U.S. from providing any kind of aid to Pakistan and would lead to an irreparable breach in the relationship.

While tightening U.S. counterterrorism policies toward Pakistan is necessary, it’s also not in the U.S. interest to make an enemy out of Pakistan.

Our report revolves around the notion that evoking change in Pakistani terrorism policies is desirable not only for U.S. security objectives, but also for the sake of Pakistan’s own future.

Contrary to what Krepon’s article suggests, raising the bar on the Pakistanis is not an effort to stigmatize them. Krepon’s article wrongly suggests that any policy other than the status quo amounts to disengaging with Pakistan.

Krepon’s argument seems to be that the U.S. should allow Pakistan to continue support for some terror groups and wait patiently until Pakistan itself realizes the cost of its dangerous behavior through what he calls a “clarifying process.”

But the risks in the region are too acute and immediate to wait patiently and assume that Pakistan will eventually change its policies without incurring some international cost. Pressure from the United States is needed.

At the same time, the Trump administration should both publicly and privately maintain avenues for Pakistan to become a U.S. ally in the future. As we state in the report:

Were Pakistan to cease its current tolerance of and support to terrorist groups, one can envisage grounds for common interest and policies on a range of issues that would form the basis of mutual interest. This could involve a package of trade and investment cooperation that would be mutually win-win for the economies of the United States and Pakistan.

Far from stigmatizing Pakistan or proposing a witch hunt, our report provides a sound and practical way forward for improving the prospects for stability in the region, reducing global terrorist threats, and providing the basis for a stronger U.S.-Pakistan partnership over the long term.

Overseas Congress celebrates Punjab victory

By Deepak Arora

NEW YORK, March 12: The Indian National Overseas Congress celebrated the victory of the Indian National Congress(I) in the Punjab Elections in New York at World Fair Marina restaurant on 03/12/2017. The event was attended by all the executive committee members from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area along with other members of Overseas Congress.

The meetings was also attended by some prominent community leaders including Jesse Singh who is the Chairman of Sikh Americans for Trump and worked closely with the Trump campaign in November 2016.

The meeting started with a minute silence in honor of the late President of INOC(I), USA Lavika Bhagat Singh who passed away in January last.

Chairman Shudh Parkash Singh recalled his starting the 'Chalo Punjab' campaign and how they were received at AICC by central leaders of the Congress Party like Ambika Soni, Manish Tiwari and others and also the grand welcome that the team had been accorded at Amritsar by Captain Amrinder Singh and his team.

He said that the issue of Employment, Drug menance, Education and Health Care were on top priority of the administration of Captain Amrinder Singh and said that Punjab will again see better days and good administration under the dynamic Leadership of Captain Amrinder Singh.

Rajender Dichpally (National General Secretary of Overseas Congress) spoke on the victory of the Congress Party in Punjab and the role that the NRI's played in canvassing for the Party in the state.

He said that this victory will be the beginning of the revival of the Congress Party in India under the Leadership of Rahul Gandhi and congratulated the members of Overseas Congress led by Chairman Shudh Parkash and Gurmeer Singh Gill who participated in the 'Chalo Punjab' campaign that saw over 100 NRI's campaign for the Congress Party in Punjab.

Gurmeet Singh Gill spoke on how he led a delegation of NRIs to campaign in Punjab and the ground level support that his team received when they campaigned on behalf of the Congress Party. He said that he was sure that the Party will again be one of the best administered states in India under Captain Amrinder Singh.

Radhakrishna (Senior Vice President of Overseas Congress) sent his congratulations to the Overseas Congress NRI team that campaigned for the Congress Party in India and said he spoke to several Congress leaders in India to congratulate them on the victory in Punjab.

Kalathil Varghese (Vice President of Overseas Congress) spoke on how this victory of the Congress Party in Punjab will help in the revival of the Congress Party in India in other states, including Kerela.

Ravi Chopra (Vice President of Overseas Congress) spoke on the importance of the victory of the Congress Party and hoped that Punjab will again see alot of development.

Overseas Congress Team Attends Swearing-in of New Punjab CM

CHANDIGARGH, March 16: The Overseas Congress team was also invited to the swearing in ceremony of Captain Amrinder Singh as the new Cheif Minister of Punjab and the team led by Chairman Shudh Parkash Singh and Punjab Chapter President Gurmeet Singh Gill attended the swearing in ceremony in Punjab on March 16.

Captain Amrinder Singh also invited the NRI delegation for a exclusive meeting after he was sowrn in as the new Chief Minister to discuss the problems of NRI's and assured the delegation led by Shudh Singh and Gurmeet Singh all support under his new administration.

China and US should handle 'sensitive issues' in their ties properly: Xi

BEIJING, March 19: China and the US should handle "sensitive issues" in their bilateral ties properly, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday told visiting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as he called cooperation the "only correct choice" for providing a "new start" to their relations.

Xi's assertion came amidst a number of contentious issues in Sino-US relations, including the South China Sea, the status of Taiwan, trade as well as the North Korean missile and nuclear threats.

"We should properly handle and manage sensitive issues to promote the healthy and stable development of sino-US relationship from a new start," Xi told Tillerson here.

Cooperation is the "only correct" choice for both the countries, Xi said apparently referring to anti-China rhetoric by US President Donald Trump.

Trump had branded China a currency manipulator stealing American jobs and also threatened to impose 45 per cent tariffs on Chinese goods.

In his meeting with Tillerson today, Xi said the two sides should grasp the general direction for the development of China-US relations in an attitude responsible for history and future generations.

He suggested that the two countries increase strategic trust and mutual understanding, review bilateral ties from long-term and strategic perspectives and expand fields of cooperation for win-win outcomes, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The two countries should also enhance coordination on regional hotspot issues, respect each other's core interests and major concerns and encourage friendly exchanges, Xi said as he invited Trump to China.

Responding to Xi's invitation, Tillerson said Trump placed a "very high value on the communications that have already occurred" between the two presidents.

"He looks forward to enhancing that understanding in the opportunity for a visit in the future," Tillerson said.

"We know that through further dialogue we will achieve a greater understanding that will lead to a strengthening of the ties between China and the US, and set the tone for our future relationship of cooperation," he said.

Ahead of Tillerson's visit to China, Trump also put out a tweet to criticise Beijing's role in dealing with North Korea.

"North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been playing the United States for years. China has done little to help," Trump tweeted.

However, Tillerson yesterday held lengthy round of "frank and candid" talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

After talks, Tillerson said the US would work with China to deal with threats posed by North Korea, which is also a close ally of Beijing.

Tillerson visited South Korea on Friday and cautioned North Korea that all options are on the table to deal with Pyongyang's provocative nuclear and missile programmes.

US, China to cooperate on 'dangerous' North Korea situation

BEIJING, March 18: The US and China pledged on Saturday to work together in addressing the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear programme, as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned regional tensions had reached a "dangerous level."

The language from Tillerson and his Chinese counterpart after talks in Beijing was notably conciliatory after a run-up in which US President Donald Trump accused China of doing nothing to control its rogue neighbour while Beijing blamed Washington for fuelling hostilities.

"I think we share a common view and a sense that tensions in the peninsula are quite high right now and that things have reached a rather dangerous level," Tillerson said after talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

"We will work together to see if we cannot bring the government in Pyongyang to a place where they want to make a different course, make a course correction, and move away from the development of nuclear weapons."

Tillerson arrived in Beijing earlier Saturday after visits to US allies Japan and South Korea where he said the US would no longer observe the "failed" approach of patient diplomacy, warning that American military action against the North was an option "on the table."

But Tillerson refrained from further tough talk in his joint appearance with Wang, who appeared to chide the US diplomat over his rhetoric this week.

"We hope all parties including our friends from the United States could size up the situation in a cool-headed and comprehensive fashion and arrive at a wise decision," Wang said.

Neither side indicated any concrete next steps, and Tillerson did not explicitly back Beijing's calls for negotiations with North Korea, which Washington has rejected.

In a Friday Twitter blast, Trump had accused Beijing of failing to use its leverage as North Korea's key diplomatic and trade partner.

"North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been 'playing' the United States for years. China has done little to help!" Trump said.

The hardened US stance followed two North Korean nuclear tests last year and recent missile launches that Pyongyang described as practice for an attack on US bases in Japan.

Beijing is reluctant to squeeze the unpredictable North, now led by Kim Jong-Un, too hard lest it trigger a confrontation or messy regime collapse.

China, however, has accused Washington of escalating tensions by holding military exercises with its ally Seoul and deploying an anti-missile system in South Korea.

Beijing wants to resume multi-lateral diplomatic negotiations with North Korea on dismantling its nukes -- which UN resolutions bar it from having. Various rounds of such talks in years past failed to deter Pyongyang.

"We both hope to find ways to restart talks and do not give up hope for peace," Wang said.

China has criticised the US get-tough approach, saying diplomacy was the "only feasible option" and challenging the Trump administration to propose a clear alternative.

One reason for the amicable tone Saturday may be that delicate negotiations are under way for President Xi Jinping's first summit with Trump next month in the United States.

Trump has been a frequent China critic, and the encounter could be crucial to setting the tone in the big-power relationship.

Tillerson was expected to meet Xi on Sunday morning.

Beijing shares US concerns over Pyongyang but has been accused of not fully enforcing UN sanctions.

But it took one of its toughest steps yet in February, halting all imports of North Korean coal -- a key source of income for the impoverished state -- for the rest of this year.

Wang Dong, a North Korea expert at Peking University, said it was wrong to think Beijing can control the unpredictable and head-strong Pyongyang.

"It is unreasonable for the United States to accuse China of doing nothing on the DPRK (North Korea)," Wang said.

"This is an extremely complex and sensitive issue. There is no one magic formula."

The Obama administration had ruled out diplomatic engagement until Pyongyang fully committed to denuclearisation.

North Korea insists it needs nuclear weapons for defense. It conducted its first underground atomic test in 2006, triggering global condemnation. Four more followed.

There was no immediate reaction from North Korea but the country's top newspaper Rodong Sinmun carried a commentary Saturday threatening to launch a devastating nuclear attack if the US takes military action.

Trump Administration To Push For India's NSG bid

WASHINGTON, March 15: The US has said it is working with India and NSG members to push for New Delhi's membership in the elite grouping, indicating that there is no change in America's policy on the issue under the Trump administration.

"The United States supports India's full membership in the four multilateral export control regimes, and we believe that India is ready for NSG membership," said a State Department spokesperson.

The spokesperson was responding to questions on the position of the Trump administration on India's bid to be a member of the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

The United States and India have been working on this issue since the Bush Administration. Despite its best effort, the Obama administration could not get the job done due to opposition from China. The baton now has been passed on to the Trump administration.

"We have worked and continue to work closely with our Indian counterparts and the NSG Participating Governments to help advance India's case for membership," the State Department official said, indicating that there has been no change in the US policy towards India's NSG membership bid under the Trump administration.

The key to India's membership now lies with China.

However, it is not clear if new US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who would be in China this week, would be raising this issue with the Chinese leadership or if President Donald Trump is ready to take up the issue himself as was done by President George Bush.

China beefs up military to protect trade

By Malia Zimmerman

WASHINGTON D.C., March 15: With a laser-like focus on protecting its lifeblood – trade – China is dramatically altering its military operations, creating specialized teams that can protect its maritime resources, routes and territorial expansion plans.

China will boost its marine corps five-fold, from 20,000 to 100,000 soldiers, basing them in part at ports in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and Gwadar in southwest Pakistan, while reducing the land-locked People’s Liberation Army by 300,000 soldiers, the South China Morning Post reports.

The military buildup will also increase its navy—as much as 15 percent from its current 235,000 personnel – and add military bases that house multiple aircraft carrier battle groups, more nuclear powered attack submarines, destroyers and more sea-based missile defense platforms, experts tell Fox News.

“The great Achilles heel of China is trade—especially natural resources that come via sea and into its ports — and a big reason it will inevitably become a globally deployed military power,” said Harry Kazianis, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Defense Studies for The Center for the National Interest.

“Beijing’s armed forces are working to slowly but surely reinforce and protect its overseas hubs as well as trade routes that move from Europe, the Middle East and Africa and into China’s territorial waters.”

With China’s military becomes a stronger global force, experts say the new threat could prompt the United States to beef up its own armed services.

“The biggest change is that America and China’s potential flashpoints will not be so fixed in one region, but will take on a global dimension,” Kazianis said.

Washington will compete strategically not just in the volatile chessboard of the Asia-Pacific with Beijing, but very soon in the Indian Ocean, in the Middle East, off the coast of Africa and potentially in the Atlantic, he said.

“The change will force Washington, out of sheer necessity, to reinvest in naval capabilities that are first rate, and all but guarantees the need for future increases in military spending, Kazianis said. “America will essentially be forced to take China seriously for the near-superpower she already is—and potentially devote less resources to other pressing challenges like ISIS, Russia, and terrorism.”

China is boosting its military capabilities, troop numbers and design and its reach to “defend” its “maritime rights,” to protect its assets in the China Sea, and as one Chinese military expert said, in case of war with Taiwan.

The status of the navy will be more important than ever, said Liu Xiaojiang, a former navy political commissar, at the March 5 Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing.

“Besides its original missions of a possible war with Taiwan, maritime defense in the East and South China seas, it’s also foreseeable that the PLA Navy’s mission will expand overseas, including protection of China’s national security in the Korean peninsula, the country’s maritime lifelines, as well as offshore supply deports like in Djibouti and Gwadar port in Pakistan,” Liu said, the South China Morning Post reported.

Kazianis said that, being a nation with global interests and an economy second only to America, it is essential for China to reshape its military and capabilities.

However, China’s access to the ocean bumps up in every direction against some other country’s exclusive economic zone, making the strategy all the more challenging to deploy, notes James Jay Carafano, a leading expert in national security and foreign policy challenges at the Heritage Foundation.

“China has no free passage to the sea other than what is called the ‘innocent rite of passage’ for commercial and military ships, but if China is going to control its destiny, it has to have the military capacity to control sea space above, on, and under the sea,” Carafano said.

That new deployment strategy is manifesting itself in several ways, Carafano said – from China constructing aircraft carriers, which allow them to project naval warfare, to them building sea-based platforms, and their tremendous use of a Chinese naval militia that can act on behalf of the Chinese government.

Some 90 percent of the world’s goods and services move by sea, and no single country should have the exclusive monopoly over that access, Carafano said.

“The freedom of the seas is essential,” Carafano said, “because if China owns the South China Seas and controls the waters, then it can dictate the flow of maritime traffic in Asia.”

@ Malia Zimmerman is an award-winning investigative reporter focusing on crime, homeland security, illegal immigration crime, terrorism and political corruption.

US court halts Donald Trump’s new travel ban before it can go into effect

NEW YORK, March 15: A federal US court on Wednesday blocked President Donald Trump’s second and toned-down executive order temporarily suspending travel from six-Muslim majority countries and the entry of all refugees, saying it could be seen to “disfavour a certain religion”.

The stay issued a day before the executive order was to go into effect was a massive blow to the president, whose first order sparked worldwide outrage and chaos at airports around the country and abroad as travelers flying into the US were detained for deportation on arrival.

US district judge Derrick K Watson, of Hawaii state, said in a 43-page order that any “reasonable, objective observer—enlightened by the specific historical context, contemporaneous public statements, and specific sequence of events leading to its issuance—would conclude that the executive order was issued with a purpose to disfavour a particular religion”.

Addressing a rally in Nashville, Tennessee later in the evening Trump hit back calling the stay “an unprecedented judicial overreach” and promised to challenge it.

Judge Watson was appointed by former President Barak Obama and Trump might have found a degree of support for calling the order politically motivated if it wasn’t for judge James Roberts, of Washington state, who had stayed Trump’s first travel ban order — he was appointed by President George W Bush, a Republican.

The Wednesday stay order will have countrywide effect as federal courts in other states continue to consider challenges to to the new travel ban that Trump signed into effect on March 6, giving it 10 days before going into effect to take care of issues that caused the last one to come unstuck within days of its debut in January.

The new order was less sweeping in scope and nature, with the list of countries whose citizens would be temporarily denied new visas and Green Cards — for 90 days — going from seven to six — it applies to only Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya. Iraq was dropped.

The new order did not impact citizens of these countries who already held US visas or Green Card.

Though the admission of all refugees would be suspended for 120 days as proposed before, those from Syria would not be subjected to an indefinite ban, in a marked change. On resumption, the annual intake would be cut by more than half to 50,000, as also stated in the first order.

The duration of the suspension was meant to be used by federal agencies — the department of homeland security, justice department and the state department to put in place a process of “extreme vetting” to prevent terrorists — whom he has called “bad dudes” — from entering the United States.

Though the administration has fought back agaisnt allegations that the order — both the first and the second — targeted Muslims, the president himself and his aides have seemed not so convincing.

And it wasn’t missed on the Hawaii judge, who cited a press statement from the Trump campaign after the San Bernardino, California attack in December 2015.

Cannot take Indo-US ties for granted: Ami Bera

WASHINGTON, March 15: A top Indian-American Congressman has expressed optimism about the future of the Indo-US relationship but warned against taking it for granted as there will be bumps in the road like incidents of hate crime.

“I am very optimistic about the [India US] relationship.

But we have to be very intentional. We can’t take the relationship for granted,” Ami Bera, the three-term Democratic Indian American Congressman from California said.

“There will be bumps in the road,” he said, citing hate crimes and immigration as some of those bumps.

“We have to look at the big picture. Don’t lose sight,” he said, adding that the Indian-Americans will play an important role in this.

Bera was speaking at a round table jointly organised by US India Friendship Council and US India Business Council at the Capitol Visitor Center here.

“From our perspective, the relationship can’t be based on one administration and another administration. This can be the defining relationship of the 21st century,” he said.

“We will continue to build the relationship between the members of the Congress and the Indian MPs because those are lasting relationships,” he added.

The trajectory of the Indo-US relationship has been phenomenal, he said.

Bera said India is playing a key role in stabilising the Indian Ocean region.

“As we look at the partnership between [former] President Obama and Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi, you can see the chemistry there and the mutual respect,” he said.

“The news coming out from the conversation between President Donald Trump and Modi is a positive sign,” he said.

“The fact that the Prime Minister would be visiting the United States again very shortly is a very positive sign,” he added.

Referring to the hate crimes that is impacting the South Asian community, in particular the Indian-Americans, Bera said, “This is not who we are as a country. What worrisome to me is how it is impacting our reputation around the world.”

Ro Khanna, Indian-American Congressman from California, expressed his optimism about country’s future even though there has been some unfortunate incidents.

“We have the most tolerant, most open democracy in the world,” he said.

Senator Joe Donnelly from Indiana said India and the United States enjoy a very special relationship.

Trump signs new travel order targeting six Muslim-majority nations

TrumpWASHINGTON, March 6: In several major departures from its earlier travel ban, the Trump administration’s new order issued on Monday temporarily bars citizens of six Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States and allows all those who have valid visas.

The new order also doesn’t indefinitely bar Syrian refugees, as proposed in the earlier one, and, in yet another change, removes a provision prioritising Christians fleeing persecution from Christian-minority parts of the world.

It goes into effect from March 16, not immediately.

President Donald Trump signed the new order in the White House, but without the fanfare, photo-ops and remarks that accompanied the earlier order, which was mired in controversy from the minute it rolled out on January 27.

Details of the new travel ban were announced instead by secretaries of state and homeland security Rex Tillersen and John Kelly and attorney general Jeff Sessions - heads of the departments that will play critical roles in its implementation.

The purpose, as before, was to prevent terrorists — “bad dudes”, Trump has called them — from entering the US.

“This revised order will bolster security of the US and her allies,” Tillersen said in a rare news appearance. “The American people can have confidence we are identifying ways to improve the vetting process; keep terrorists from entering.”

Sessions said, “The majority of people convicted in our courts for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from abroad. We also know that people seeking to support or commit terrorist attacks here will try to enter through our refugee program. In fact, today more than 300 people who came here as refugees are under FBI investigation for potential terrorism-related activities.”

The new order is limited in scope and nature. It applies to six countries, against seven in the earlier order, with Iraq being dropped under pressure from Iraq and the US departments of defense and state, which argued that the country is a crucial ally in the fight against Islamic State.

The new ban applies to all citizens of Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and Syria, and will be in effect for 90 days. All refugees will be barred from entering for 120 days, and on resumption, the annual intake will be down to 50,000.

About the decision to drop Iraq, the homeland security said in a factsheet: “On the basis of negotiations that have taken place between the government of Iraq and the US Department of State in the last month, Iraq will increase cooperation with the US government on the vetting of its citizens applying for a visa to travel to the US.”

During the period of the temporary ban, the government will put in place a system of “extreme vetting”, Sessions said at the press appearance, “This executive order protects the American people by putting in place an enhanced screening and vetting process for visitors from six nations.”

The administration has 10 days to implement the new order, unlike the previous one which went into effect immediately, creating chaos and confusion at airports around the US and the world.

That order, which stands revoked, was immediately challenged in courts, and successfully freed up those arrested or detained. A federal bench in Washington state followed up, slapping a country-wide stay that was upheld later by an appeals court.

Indian Ambassador Navtej Sarna conveys 'deep concerns'; US assures speedy justice in incidents against Indians

By Deepak Arora

Ambassador Navtej SarnaWASHINGTON, March 5: New Delhi has conveyed its "deep concerns" to US Government on recent tragic incidents involving Indian-origin persons, including Hardish Patel and Deep Rai.

India's Ambassador to the US Navtej Sarna underlined the need to prevent such incidents and protect Indian community.

The State Department, on behalf of the US Government, expressed condolences and assured they are working with all agencies concerned to ensure speedy justice.

"Amb @NavtejSarna convyd r deep concerns to US Gov on recent tragic incidents involving Hardish Patel & Deep Rai," tweeted Embassy of India in Washington today.

"Amb @NavtejSarna underlined need to prevent such incidents and protect Indian community," it said in another tweet.

Hardish Patel, 43, Indian-origin store owner in the US was shot dead outside his home on Thursday, just days after an Indian engineer was killed in Kansas in a hate crime shooting that had sent shockwaves across the country.

39-year-old Sikh man, Deep Rai, in the US has been shot outside his home by a partially-masked gunman who shouted "go back to your own country", in a suspected hate crime.

Sikh man shot at in US, masked attacker shouted ‘go back to your country’

WASHINGTON, March 5: A Sikh man was shot at and wounded in his driveway in Kent, Washington, by a masked assailant who then called out to him to “go back to your own country”, a variation of the last words Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla heard at a bar in Olathe, Kansas, last month in a hate-crime murder that shook up both the US and India.

The Kent shooting took place at 8:00 pm, according to local police. The assailant walked up to the victim, a 39-year-old Sikh who was working on his car in the driveway. They had an argument that ended with the shooter opening fire, and telling him to return to his country.

The shooter, who wore a mask covering the lower portion of his face, had not been identified till the filing of this report and the local police were reported to have sought the FBI’s help in investigating the case, which appeared to be a hate crime.

“We’re early on in our investigation,” Kent police chief Ken Thomas told Seattle Times. “We are treating this as a very serious incident.”

The victim, identified by Indian authorities as Deep Rai, was shot in the arm and was released from hospital after treatment. He and his family are obviously shaken, as is the community.

There has been many hate-crime attacks against Sikhs in America, with Balbir Singh Sandhu becoming the first victim of a backlash in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks carried out by men from the Middle East.

Sandhu was killed outside his gas station in Messa, Arizona by man who mistook for a Middle-Easterner because of his turban which resembled headgear worn in that region.

Six Sikhs were gunned down in a gurudwara in Wisconsin in 2013 by a white supremacist. And members of the community have complained of suffering slurs and hateful behaviour all around the country, with some having to relocate to end the harassment.

On Thursday, a 43-year-old Indian-origin store owner in South Carolina, Harnish Patel was shot dead outside his home, although the county sheriff said this “may not be a hate crime”.

The Sikh community is fighting back by launching efforts to address the problem, which, in part stems from misconceptions about its religion and, in a large part, its identity. The Sikh Coalition is an advocacy group that works with the FBI in fighting this hostility.

“While we appreciate the efforts of state and local officials to respond to attacks like this, we need our national leaders to make hate crime prevention a top priority,” Rajdeep Singh of the Sikh Coalition said in a statement.

“Tone matters in our political discourse because this is a matter of life or death for millions of Americans who are worried about losing loved ones to hate.”

That was a guarded reference to the divisiveness that has swept the United States since the election of President Donald Trump in November, with an immediate and perceptible rise in attacks against minority communities such Jews, blacks, Hispanics and now Indians and Sikhs.

Kuchibhotla was killed by a man who mistook him for middle-eastern — in fact he allegedly told a bartender who gave him up to the police — he had shot two men from Iran, one of the seven countries on Trump’s travel ban.

The second victim was Alok Madasani, who suffered minor injuries, while a third man, a white American, Ian Grillot was shot and wounded badly when he tried to intervene.

Trump denounced the Kansa shooting and all instance of hate-crimes in his maiden speech to the joint session of congress, but, as the Sikh Coalition’s Singh said, American leaders need to “make hate crime prevention a top priority”.

Trump denounces Kansas shooting in US Congress speech

TrumpWASHINGTON, March 1: US President Donald Trump has denounced the threats and vandalism against the Jewish community in the US and the shooting in Kansas that claimed the life of an engineer from India. The incidents, he said, "remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms."

In a nearly hour-long speech to the joint session of the US Congress here on Tuesday, the President embraced the conciliatory aspect of the job, by telling Americans of all race, colour, and creed that "We are one people, with one destiny."

A softer, gentler, more Presidential Donald Trump emerged on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, seeking to heal a bitterly divided America on issues from racism to immigration while still projecting a muscular United States bound for glory in his time at the White House.

The US President also refined his position on immigration, calling for a merit-based entry to the United States that was prevalent before the 1960s, when family-based and low-skilled immigration became prevalent.

"Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, we will have so many more benefits. It will save countless dollars, raise workers' wages, and help struggling families, including immigrant families, enter the middle class. And they will do it quickly and they will be very, very happy indeed," Trump said.

The President's position, which has to be legislated into effect by Congress, will effectively regulate emigration from across the world into the US of the wealthy and the high-skilled (and potentially high earning) while keeping out "your poor,...your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...the wretched refuse of your teeming shore," that is enshrined on the Statue of Liberty.

But Trump was unapologetic about his stand, insisting that "it is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially." He said the current, "outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers and puts great pressure on taxpayers," and pointed to nations like Canada and Australia that have a merit-based system.

The US President also implicitly connected immigration to extremism and terrorism, urging those given the "high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values," and warning, "We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside of America. We cannot allow our nation to become a sanctuary for extremists."

Trump dealt only broadly with foreign policy issues while calling for a "direct, robust and meaningful engagement with the world" in which the American leadership is "based on vital security interests that we share with our allies all across the globe."

Despite his frequent dissing of Nato, he said the US strongly supports the organization (as long as the partners meet their financial obligations), and pledged that "our allies will find that America is once again ready to lead."

Trump stayed away from mentioning Russia, which has been a hot-button issue in Washington in the past weeks, as the White House has pushed back on media reports of backroom contacts with Russia. Trump wants to normalize relations with Russia, which is something in India's larger interest, but the current atmosphere in the US appears resolutely opposed. So Trump did not go beyond saying "We want peace, wherever peace can be found. America is friends today with former enemies" leaving that hanging.'

His only mention of China was in a negative context, signaling, if nothing else, that China could be in for some rocky times on trade and currency issues. Trump's top economic brains, Peter Navarro and Wilbur Ross are both proponents for being tough on China. While this might give China some sleepless nights, India would need to look inwards as well - India has some of the highest tariffs in the world, which could be a tough sell to a Trump administration intent on opening new markets for American goods and services.

Trump maintained his determination to fight "radical Islamic terrorism", said in a slow, deliberate manner for greater emphasis. While it appears Iraq will be out of the new immigration ban list, India will be watching to see how he tackles the Taliban and Pakistan's terrorism infrastructure. That, to a great extent, will determine the nature of US-India relations in the Trump years.

Killing of Indian in Kansas 'disturbing': White House

Sean SpicerWASHINGTON, Feb 28: The killing of Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla is “disturbing,” and President Donald Trump is dedicated to preserving the right to religious freedom for all Americans, the White House said on Monday. “The President is dedicated to preserving this originating principle of our nation,” said Press secretary Sean Spicer.

Spicer made a mention of the attack in Kansas that killed Kuchibhotla and injured his friend Alok Madasani while discussing the recurring incidents of vandalism targeting the Jewish community.

“I wanted to note the President continues to be deeply disappointed and concerned by the reports of further vandalism at Jewish community,” said Spicer adding that such incidents have been reported from around the country.

“The President continues to condemn these and any other form of anti-Semitic and hateful acts in the strongest terms. From our country’s founding, we’ve been dedicated to protecting the freedom of our citizens' rights to worship. No one in America should feel afraid to follow the religion of their choosing freely and openly. … And while we’re at it, I don’t want to get ahead of the law enforcement, but I was asked the other day about the story in Kansas -- the shooting in Kansas. And while the story is evolving, early reports out of Kansas are equally disturbing,” said Spicer.

India salutes heroism of American who intervened in Kansas shooting: Sushma

Sushma SwarajNEW DELHI, Feb 27: External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday wished a speedy recovery to the American, who was injured while intervening in the shooting that killed an Indian engineer in the US, and said India salutes his heroism.

“India salutes the heroism of Ian Grillot! Best wishes for a speedy recovery,” Swaraj tweeted.

Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, was killed and Alok Madasani, of the same age, was injured in the shooting by 51-year-old US navy veteran Adam Purinton who allegedly yelled “get out of my country”.

Grillot, 24, tried to intervene and received injuries in the firing in Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas.

He is recovering in a hospital after being shot in the hand and chest.

US engaged with India on safety of Indians: Gopal Baglay

Gopal BaglayNEW DELHI, Feb 28: India has said that the US authorities were engaged with New Delhi on the larger concern regarding safety of Indians in the US. A spokesan of the Ministry of External Affairs said the US government and senior authorities in Kansas have promptly responded to the killing of 32-year-old Kuchibhotla, and also drew attention to the strong condemnation of the tragic shooting by the US Embassy in New Delhi last week.

Gopal Baglay, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said “It is important to note that the US authorities are engaged with us on the larger concern regarding safety of Indians in the US, a matter which continues to receive the government’s top priority.”

Kuchibhotla is possibly the first casualty of the religious, racial and ethnic divisiveness that has swept the US following the election of President Donald Trump, with minorities such as Jews and Muslims reporting a surge in attacks on them and their institutions.

The US Charge d’Affaires had stated that her country welcomes people from across the world and the US authorities will investigate thoroughly and prosecute the case, Baglay said.

“This approach is reflected in the sentiments and assurances from senior most authorities of Kansas, who have reached out to the Indian Consul General in Houston. These developments obviated the need for a demarche by the government on this matter,” Baglay said.

The spokesperson was reacting to a query on the media report that the Embassy of India in Washington had issued a demarche to the US State Department.

In Washington last week, Indian embassy spokesman Pratik Mathur had said in a statement, “Government of India has taken up the matter with the US authorities to express our deep concern and have asked for speedy investigation. US government while condemning the attack, have assured us that they are conducting a thorough investigation into the matter.”

Baglay also mentioned that “We also must not forget the noble and courageous gesture of the young American Ian Grillot, who risked his life while countering the shooter.”

Former US Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has asked Trump to “step up and speak out” on rising hate crimes in the US. Her comments came as the body of Kuchibhotla was flown to India and cremated on Tuesday in Hyderabad with grieving relatives, friends and neighbours gathering for the last rites.

Donald Trump to boost US military spending: Officials

WASHINGTON, Feb 27: US President Donald Trump will instruct federal agencies on Monday to assemble a budget for the coming fiscal year that includes sharp increases in Defence Department spending and drastic cuts to domestic agencies, according to administration officials.

A day before delivering a high-stakes address on Tuesday to a joint session of Congress, Trump will demand a budget with billions of dollars in reductions to the Environmental Protection Agency and State Department, according to the officials with direct knowledge of the plan.

Social safety net programmes, aside from the big entitlement programs for retirees, would also be hit hard, the New York Times reported.

The budget plan, a numerical sketch that will probably be substantially altered by House and Senate Republicans - and opposed by congressional Democrats - will be Trump’s first big step into a legislative fray he has largely avoided during the first 40 days of his administration, according to the daily.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Sunday said that Trump’s first budget would not touch Social Security or Medicare.

Trump’s policy on entitlement reform is unclear, and his administration has not proposed a way to salvage Social Security and Medicare, the most expensive piece of the federal budget, or refuel trust funds expected to run dry in less than 20 years, The Hill magazine reported.

Instead, Trump’s plan to pay down the nearly $20 trillion national debt rests on bolstering economic growth through tax cuts and deregulation.

Trump’s team is also considering tax cuts without equivalent spending cuts, but insist lower corporate taxes will fuel domestic manufacturing and investment

The budget will predict 2.4 per cent growth in 2017, according to the New York Times. That is more than the 1.6 per cent former President Barack Obama’s administration average but below the 4 per cent to 6 per cent growth Trump promised on the campaign trail.

Mnuchin said the administration would like to complete comprehensive tax reform by August, an ambitious goal given the jam-packed legislative calendar.

The White House and Congress will have to raise the debt ceiling around March 16 and fund the government by the end April 28.

Indian techie killed in US in suspected hate crime, shooter shouted ‘get out of my country’

KANSAS, Feb 24: In a suspected hate crime, an Indian engineer was killed and another was injured after an American Navy veteran allegedly opened fire on them in a bar in Kansas City, shouting “terrorist” and “get out of my country”, at around 7:15 pm (local US time) on Wednesday. An American who tried to intervene was also injured in the attack.

According to the Kansas City Star newspaper, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, who worked in aviation systems for Olathe-based Garmin Ltd, and his colleague Alok Madasani, 32, were having a drink at a local bar-and-grill when they had an altercation with the shooter, Adam Purinton, 51, who reportedly shouted racial slurs. Purinton provoked them into an argument, questioning their presence and work in the US, and asking them how they were better than him, said the report.

According to the police, Purinton left the bar after the argument and then returned with a gun. He reportedly shouted “get out of my country” and “terrorist” before shooting them, killing Srinivas Kuchibhotla and injuring Alok Madasani. An American national, Ian Grillot, 24, who tried to intervene was injured in the attack. Purinton was arrested five hours after the incident and charged with murder and attempted murder.

Kansas City Star said Purinton, a Navy veteran with an inactive pilot licence, told a bartender in Clinton, Missouri, where he was hiding after the shooting, that he had killed two “Middle Eastern” persons. He has been charged with premeditated first-degree murder and his bond has been set at $2 million.

The shooter worked as an air traffic controller in Olathe. He earlier worked at the Federal Aviation Administration, but left it in 2000, Kansas City reported. Purinton had a reputation as both a troubled man and a typical helpful neighbour. He could often be seen outside, beer in hand, and would complain about his health and grieve about his father’s death about a year ago, Kansas City Star reported.

This is the first suspected racist attack involving an Indian victim since US President Donald Trump assumed office last month. Last month, Baltimore Sun had reported that an Indian-American woman, reportedly the inspiration for Hindi movie Swades, was stopped by police during her morning stroll in her hometown and questioned about her immigration status.

Expressing shock over the incident, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said two Indian consulate officials from Houston have been rushed to Kansas to render all possible assistance.

“I am shocked at the shooting incident in Kansas in which Srinivas Kuchibhotla has been killed. My heartfelt condolences to bereaved family,” she tweeted. “I have spoken to Indian Ambassador in US Mr Navtej Sarna. He informed me that two Indian Embassy officials have rushed to Kansas,” she said.

The Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson, Vikas Swarup, said Kuchibhotla and Madasani hailed from Hyderabad and Warangal, and were working at Garmin in Olathe (Kansas).

“Houston Deputy Consul R D Joshi and Vice Consul Harpal Singh will meet the injured and facilitate in bringing the mortal remains of the deceased and will be in touch with local police officials to ascertain more details of the incident and monitor follow-up action,” said Swarup. They will also meet the community members in Kansas, he said.

According to Garmin, Kuchibhotla and Madasani worked in the company’s aviation systems. “Unfortunately, two associates on our Aviation Systems Engineering team, Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, were shot. We are devastated to inform you that Srinivas passed away and Alok is currently recovering in the hospital,” Garmin said.

The US Embassy in New Delhi condemned the incident and said American authorities would thoroughly investigate and bring the case to justice. “We are deeply saddened by this tragic and senseless act. Our deepest sympathies are with the victims and their families. The US is a nation of immigrants and welcomes people from across the world to visit, work, study, and live… US authorities will investigate thoroughly and prosecute the case, though we recognise that justice is small consolation to families in grief,” said US Chargé d’Affaires MaryKay Carlson.

New US immigration policy to impact 300,000 Indian-Americans

WASHINGTON, Feb 22: The Donald Trump administration issued tough new orders on Tuesday for a sweeping crackdown on illegal immigrants, placing nearly all of the country's 11 million undocumented foreigners in its crosshairs. The orders sent shivers through US immigrant communities, where millions of people who have spent years building families and livelihoods in the country, most of them from Mexico and Central America, were seriously threatened with deportation for the first time in decades.

Nearly 300,000 Indian-Americans are likely to be impacted by the plan. Any immigrant who is in the country illegally and is charged or convicted of any offense, or even suspected of a crime, will now be an enforcement priority, according to Homeland Security Department memos signed by Secretary John Kelly. That could include people arrested for shoplifting or minor offences — or simply having crossed the border illegally.

Trump has laid the groundwork for potentially deporting millions of undocumented immigrants by issuing new guidance that drastically broadens the ways in which federal immigration laws should be enforced. "The department no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement," the department of homeland security (DHS) said in an enforcement memo.

"Department personnel have full authority to arrest or apprehend an alien whom an immigration officer has probable cause to believe is in violation of the immigration laws," it said.

The DHS has issued two enforcement memos, which among other things, tighten deportation of illegal immigrants.

The emphasis is on criminal aliens, though, but opens up the door for others too. Indian-Americans as per unofficial figures account for nearly 300,000 illegal aliens.

According to the memo, the DHS secretary has the authority to apply expedited removal provisions to aliens who have not been admitted or paroled into the US, who are inadmissible, and who have not been continuously physically present in the US for the two-year period immediately prior to the determination of their inadmissibility, so that such aliens are immediately removed unless the alien is an unaccompanied minor, intends to apply for asylum or has a fear of persecution or torture in their home country, or claims to have lawful immigration status.

The memorandum said when illegal aliens apprehended do not pose a risk of a subsequent illegal entry, returning them to the foreign contiguous territory from which they arrived, pending the outcome of removal proceedings, saves the government detention and adjudication resources for other priority aliens.

Indian-Americans, who as per an unofficial count account for nearly 300,000 illegal aliens are likely to be greatly impacted by this. The Trump administration's order overturns Obama administration's decision to allow spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in that country. According to The Economic Times, 90 percent of Indian technology workers use H-1B visas.

According to the memo, the DHS Secretary has the authority to apply expedited removal provisions to aliens who have not been admitted or paroled into the US, who are inadmissible, and who have not been continuously physically present in the US for the two-year period immediately prior to the determination of their inadmissibility, so that such aliens are immediately removed unless the alien is an unaccompanied minor, intends to apply for asylum or has a fear of persecution or torture in their home country, or claims to have lawful immigration status.

The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment, or Raise Act, introduced by Republican senator Tom Cotton and David Perdue from the Democratic party is aimed at altering the US immigration system to significantly reduce the number of foreigners admitted to the country without a skills-based visa. Earlier in February, two top US senators had proposed a legislation to cut the number of legal immigrants to the US by half within a decade.

The bill was proposed to reduce the number of green card or legal permanent residency issued every year from currently about a million to half a million. Now, that the bill is passed and has the support of the Trump administration, will have a major impact on hundreds and thousands of Indian Americans who are currently painfully waiting to get their green cards on employment-based categories.

Notably, the current wait period of an Indian to get a green card varies from 10 years to 35 years and this could increase if the proposed bill becomes a law. The bill however does not focus on H-1B visas. Cotton argued that the growth in legal immigration in recent decades had led to a "sharp decline in wages for working Americans" and that the bill represented an effort to move the US "to a more merit-based system like Canada and Australia".

"It's time our immigration system started working for American workers," Cotton said. The Raise Act would lower overall immigration to 6,37,960 in its first year and to 5,39,958 by its tenth year, a 50 percent reduction from the 1,051,031 immigrants who arrived in 2015.

The Trump administration memos replace narrower guidance focusing on immigrants who have been convicted of serious crimes, are considered threats to national security or are recent border crossers.

Rights groups labelled the move a "witch hunt," warning that mass deportations would damage families with deep roots in the United States and hurt the economy. But Kelly, who issued the new orders in two memos, said they were necessary to address a problem that has "overwhelmed" government resources. "The surge of illegal immigration at the southern border has overwhelmed federal agencies and resources and has created a significant national security vulnerability to the United States," he said in one of the memos.

The DHS has issued two enforcement memos, which among other things, tightens deportation of illegal immigrants.

The emphasis is on criminal aliens, though, but opens up the door for others too.

Modi urges US to keep an open mind on H1-B visas for IT workers

NEW DELHI, Feb 21: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged the United States to keep an open mind on admitting skilled Indian workers, in comments that pushed back against Republican President Donald Trump's 'America First' rhetoric on jobs.

Modi's comments reflected concern that India's $150 billion IT services industry would suffer if the United States curbs the visas, known as H-1B, it relies on to send its software experts to the United States on project work.

"The Prime Minister referred to the role of skilled Indian talent in enriching the American economy and society," the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said in a statement after he met a bipartisan delegation of 26 members of the US Congress.

"He urged developing a reflective, balanced and far-sighted perspective on movement of skilled professionals," the PMO said.

Indian nationals are by far the largest group of recipients of the 65,000 H-1B visas issued each year to new applicants under a cap mandated by Congress. Exemptions on the H-1B cap are available to up to 20,000 further applicants who have obtained a US master's degree.

The actual number of Indian nationals working in the United States under the H-1B programme is significantly higher, however, because many visas are rolled over.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who was born in India, also met Modi today. He said earlier that his own career had been made possible by "an enlightened immigration policy".

Initial confidence that Asia's third-largest economy would benefit from Trump's election victory has given way to concern that his isolationist rhetoric and hostility to free trade would hurt India's hi-tech and outsourcing industry.

The sector, led by Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys Ltd and Wipro Ltd, employs 3.5 million people and is lobbying against proposed U.S. visa curbs - including increases on salaries that H-1B visa holders must earn.

Part of the delegation led by Congressman Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, met Ravi Shankar Prasad, India's minister in charge of electronics and IT.

Goodlatte, speaking at the meeting with Prasad, declined to answer a question on visa restrictions, saying it was up to the president to reassess his policies on immigration.

A senior Indian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said India hoped to resolve the visa issue with the United States but declined to be drawn on the details.

The government supported a move by NASSCOM, India's high-tech industry association, to lobby U.S. lawmakers and companies to urge the administration not to crack down on allowing its skilled workers into the United States, the source said.

Trump should let Kim Jong-un know he means business

By Harry J. Kazianis

WASHINGTON, Feb 21: Often, when it comes to issues of national security, we tend to overanalyze things. We look to experts for complicated explanations when the answers, obvious enough, are staring us right in the face. The reason for this is quite simple: we don’t like the answers.

So, when we wonder why North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un does what he does—allegedly killing his half-brother and testing nuclear weapons that could be used to launch an atomic holocaust in Asia or even the West—the answer is a truth we just aren’t ready to accept.

Kim Jong-un is Michael Corleone.

But before we take that leap of faith, comparing one of the world’s vilest leaders—someone who starves his own people, runs concentration camps akin to Nazi Germany, and brainwashes millions—to a mob boss, a little explanation is in order.

You see, Michael Corleone had a problem; to put it more specifically, his mob family, the Corleones, had a problem. They were constantly fighting for survival in a world where there was no overall control of the various mob families and factions. All the big mafia families, over the course of three epic movies spanning decades, battled for power. No action was out of bounds. No amount of killing or bloodshed was over the top. Michael Corleone would kill his own brother, his brother-in-law, former allies—anyone who stood in the way of ensuring that he was in power and he survived.

See an eerie resemblance?

Now to be fair to the Corleones and the whole “Godfather” saga, I am simplifying a little here. But the point remains. Kim is doing what he feels he must do to survive, and that means doing things that Western democracies—or most nation states, for that matter—would never do, at least not out in the open. And that makes a man like Kim very dangerous.

This explains why North Korea is building all sorts of nasty weapon systems when its country is one of the poorest on planet Earth. The Corleone’s had Luca Brasi. Pyongyang has nuclear tipped missiles, chemical and biological weapons, special forces, massive pieces of artillery pointed at Seoul, and cyber capabilities that most analysts consider robust.

If he feels he is boxed in, if South Korea or its big American allies were to try to throw him out of power, Kim just might use those terrible weapons he is constantly developing.

So what does one do when dealing with a country that has seemingly taken its national security strategy from a 1970s gangster flick? Two things come to mind.

First, The Corleones, and North Korea, respect power. Washington must do all it can to make sure Pyongyang knows we mean business and that any attack on South Korea, Japan, or the U.S. homeland would mean the end of the Kim family business. President Trump must fast track increased missile defense measures, specifically the THAAD missile defense system, to South Korea and also to Japan. Washington must do all it can to negate Kim’s growing nuclear weapons program, making it harder for North Korea to hold the world over a barrel.

Second, while it might not be in vogue in Washington, it is past time to make a concerted effort to talk to North Korea. To be clear, no one wants to see the Kim family rule over North Korea forever. But at the same time, no one has any illusions that a war to remove them would be easy—regime change is not an option. Working through back channels, the Trump administration should try to talk to Asia’s Corleones, to see what efforts could be made to ease tensions, and to try to bring Pyongyang in from the cold.

While it might not be appealing, negotiating with a head of state who is murdering his people on a daily basis, imagine the alternative. What if someday a North Korean missile test goes badly and lands in Japan or South Korea killing innocent civilians? Either nation would be forced to respond, forcing North Korea to then respond as well. And anyone who has watched “The Godfather” knows one thing—a war of the families does not end well. Lots of people die. And in this case, where nuclear weapons are involved, the death toll could be in the millions.

Maybe Donald Trump should hold off on Twitter for a few hours and watch some old-school mafia flicks. They might come in handy when it comes to making Asia policy.

@ Harry J. Kazianis is a senior fellow for defense policy at the Center for the National Interest and senior editor at the National Interest Magazine.

U.S.-Japan Anti-Missile Test a Good Sign for the European Missile Defense Sites

By Michaela Dodge & Marek Menkiszak

WASHINGTON, Feb 21: The February 3rd test of the new U.S.-Japan ballistic missile interceptor was successful. That is good news for our allies in the Pacific region—especially in light of North Korea’s ballistic missile launch only nine days later.

Designed to intercept medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA will surely contribute to stability in the volatile Pacific. But the SM-3 Block IIA is also part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA)—the plan to defend U.S. allies and forward-deployed troops in Europe from the Iranian ballistic missile threat. Meaning, the February 3rd test was good news for our European allies as well.

The successful test could not be timelier. Iran has conducted several ballistic missile tests since President Trump took office. The Obama administration’s misguided Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and lifted restrictions on selling advanced technologies to the rogue regime and gave it a massive influx of cash with which to buy it. Now reinvigorated, the Iranian ballistic missile threat will not diminish anytime soon, making the ability to implement the EPAA all the more urgent.

Currently, the United States plans to establish two missile defense sites in Europe: one in Romania and the other in Poland. The Romanian site reached initial operational capability last year; the Polish site is expected to get there next year. Both sites are based on a proven and currently operational ship-based Aegis missile defense system.

These missile defense sites are more than just a tangible sign of U.S. commitment to European security. They are a visible reminder of U.S. presence in the region—a presence is all the more important in light of Russia’s efforts to undermine the security of the Central and Eastern European states.

No, the sites are not “aimed” at Russia in any sense of the word. And Russia fully understands that the EPAA, as currently planned, does not have the capability to shoot down its long-range ballistic missiles. But Moscow does seek to create a sort of security buffer zone for itself within NATO’s Eastern flank, and that entails pushing back any U.S. presence in the region—including missile defenses.

Both Polish and the Romanian governments spent significant political capital to pursue missile defense cooperation with the United States. The proposal to host a U.S. site in Romania passed that country’s parliament almost unanimously, despite threats from Russia.

It was perhaps slightly more painful for Poland; our allies in Warsaw got burnt when the Obama administration decided to cancel a previous missile defense project on their territory on the anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland.

That cancellation was supposed to ease tensions with Moscow as the Obama administration “reset” the relationship. But the maneuver yielded no cooperative sentiment on the part of the Russians and only increased their demands. Yet another cancellation would not only discredit U.S. credibility with its European allies but also further encourage Russia’s aggressive behaviors.

European allies’ political contributions are real and must not be taken for granted by the Trump Administration. Poland will contribute treasure as well, pouring resources into construction and operation of the future missile defense site at Redzikowo.

These contributions include land for the base, financing construction of infrastructure to protect and supply it, and a few hundred soldiers to assure the physical security of U.S. assets on the ground. Warsaw has also committed to exempt U.S. personnel on the ground, both civilians and the military, from value added tax on purchases in Poland. Romania has made similar contributions to the development of its site.

In a world of actors hostile to the interests of the U.S. and its allies, ballistic missile defense cooperation is more important than ever. We are witnessing it in the Pacific, with the development of the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor. And we’re seeing it in Eastern Europe, with the facilities under development in Romania and Poland.

Missile defense is not a one-way street. In these collaborative projects, the allies’ contributions are tangible and significant, serving U.S. interests as well as their own. In a world in which the ballistic missile threat continues to grow, cooperative, mutually beneficial partnerships such as these are increasingly necessary.

@ Michaela Dodge is a senior policy analyst specializing in strategic issues at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense.

@ Marek Menkiszak heads the Russian Department at the Center for Eastern Studies, Warsaw, Poland.

U.S. Navy begins patrol in South China Sea

WASHINGTON, Feb 19: A U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike group has begun patrols in the South China Sea (SCS), an official statement said.

The U.S. Navy in the statement announced the Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 1 began the routine patrols on Saturday.

The group included a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 1’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108), and aircraft from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2.

“Prior to their operations in the SCS, ships and aircraft from within the strike group conducted training off the islands of Hawaii and Guam to maintain and improve their readiness and develop cohesion as a strike group,” the statement said.

The development comes after China’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday warned the United States against challenging Beijing’s sovereignty in the region.

The area, where the group is patrolling, is a disputed area; China has been asserting its rule over the waterway despite territorial claims from a number of other east Asian nations — Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, the Voice of America said.

Sushma, US Secretary of State resolve to work together against global terrorism

NEW DELHI, Feb 15: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday called US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and resolved to work together closely against the "global terrorism" and to deepen the strategic ties between the two countries.

"Both the leaders agreed to follow-up the resolution expressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Trump to fight global terrorism together," a statement from Ministry of External Affairs said.

During a telephonic conversation, Swaraj and Tillerson stressed that a close and strong strategic-relationship between India and the US were not only in mutual interest but also had regional and global significance.

"They also agreed to intensify cooperation in various sectors, including defence and security, energy, and economy," the release said.

On January 24, Modi and Trump together resolved that "United States and India stand shoulder to shoulder in the global fight against terrorism."

Canada PM Trudeau meets Trump, seeks to boost trade ties

WASHINGTON, Feb 13: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday opened talks at the White House with US President Donald Trump, seeking to nurture economic ties while avoiding tensions over issues such as immigration on which the two are sharply at odds.

A smiling Trudeau warmly shook Trump's hand on arrival for what were his first talks there since the president assumed power on Jan. 20. Trudeau has taken a low-key approach toward Trump, a Republican who campaigned on a pledge to toughen U.S. immigration policies and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) among Canada, the United States and Mexico.

Trudeau told reporters on Friday he expected the two would "find a lot of common ground." He also said he would look to "defend and demonstrate Canadian values," but do so "respectfully and not from an ideological standpoint."

Trump's vow to renegotiate NAFTA has unnerved Canadian officials, even though he has singled out Mexico in his criticism of the free trade deal.

Canada sends 75 percent of its exports to the United States. Canadians have become more supportive of NAFTA since Trump's election victory on Nov. 8, a poll from the Angus Reid Institute showed on Monday. Forty-four percent of the 1,508 surveyed said NAFTA had benefited Canada, up from 25 percent from a poll last June.

Trudeau had a strong rapport with former Democratic President Barack Obama, prompting pundits to describe their relationship as a "bromance." Soon after Trump put a hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily banned travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries in an executive order on Jan. 27, citing the need to head off attacks by Islamist militants, the Canadian prime minister took to Twitter to say refugees were welcome in Canada.

Still, analysts said Trudeau has strong incentives to build a relationship with Trump given rising anti-trade sentiment. "You don't have to be a genius to see there are some stark differences between them," said Duke University professor Stephen Kelly, former U.S. deputy chief of mission to Ottawa. "But is this the time to be poking people in the eye? I would say it is not. ... In some ways the president is a guy for whom personal relationships may be even more important."

Canadian pollster Nik Nanos said Trudeau, who remains popular at home more than a year after winning a surprise Liberal majority government, faces the same pressure all Canadian leaders do when they engage with U.S. presidents: keep the economic ties tight but do not appear too chummy or subordinate.

Nanos expects that Trudeau, if asked, will speak about how Canada is welcoming refugees or seeking to expand free trade, without saying anything critical about Trump's point of view, conscious that the president has not hesitated to take an aggressive tone with other world leaders. "This meeting is more about avoiding pitfalls than trying to engage on some of the big issues," Nanos said. "It's definitely the policy of laying low."

Michael Flynn resigns as US national security adviser after reports he misled Pence over Russian contacts

WASHINGTON, Feb 13: President Donald Trump’s embattled national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned late Monday night, following reports that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other officials about his contacts with Russia. His departure upends Trump’s senior team after less than one month in office.

In a resignation letter, Flynn said he held numerous calls with the Russian ambassador to the US during the transition and gave “incomplete information” about those discussions to Vice President Mike Pence. The vice president, apparently relying on information from Flynn, initially said the national security adviser had not discussed sanctions with the Russian envoy, though Flynn later conceded the issue may have come up.

Trump named retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg as the acting national security adviser. Kellogg had previously been appointed the National Security Council chief of staff and advised Trump on national security issues during the campaign.

The Justice Department warned the Trump administration weeks ago that contradictions between the public depictions and the actual details of the calls could leave Flynn in a compromised position, an administration official and two other people with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press Monday night.

One person with knowledge of the situation said the Justice Department alerted the White House that there was a discrepancy between what officials were saying publicly about the contacts and the facts of what had occurred. Pence — apparently relying on information from Flynn — initially said sanctions were not discussed in the calls, though Flynn has now told White House officials that the topic may have come up.

A second official said the Justice Department was concerned Flynn could be in a compromised position as a result.

The White House has been aware of the Justice Department warnings for “weeks,” an administration official said, though it was unclear whether Trump and Pence had been alerted.

The people insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. The Washington Post was the first to report the communication between the Justice Department, including former acting attorney general Sally Yates, and the Trump administration.

Flynn apologized to Pence last week, following a Washington Post report asserting that the national security adviser has indeed discussed sanctions with the Russian envoy.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump was consulting with Pence on Monday about his conversations with the national security adviser. Asked whether the president had been aware that Flynn might discuss sanctions with the Russian envoy, Spicer said, “No, absolutely not.”

Trump, who comments on a steady stream of issues on his Twitter feed, has been conspicuously silent about the matter since The Washington Post reported last week that Flynn had discussed sanctions with the Russian envoy. A US official told The Associated Press that Flynn was in frequent contact with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on the day the Obama administration slapped sanctions on Russia for election-related hacking, as well as at other times during the transition.

Flynn’s discussions with the Russian raised questions about whether Flynn offered assurances about the incoming administration’s new approach. Such conversations would breach diplomatic protocol and possibly violate the Logan Act, a law aimed at keeping citizens from conducting diplomacy.

Earlier Monday, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Trump had “full confidence” in Flynn, though her assertions were not backed up by other senior Trump aides. Spicer would say only that Flynn was continuing to carry out “his daily functions.”

Flynn was spotted near the Oval Office just after 10 p.m. Monday. Amid the uncertainty over Flynn’s future, several of the president’s top advisers, including chief of staff Reince Priebus and counsel Don McGahn, ducked in and out of late-night meetings in the West Wing.

Several House Democrats called on Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, to launch an investigation into Flynn’s ties to Russia. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called for Flynn to be fired, saying he “cannot be trusted not to put Putin before America.”

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said that if Pence were misled, “I can’t imagine he would have trust in Gen. Flynn going forward.” She said it would also be “troubling” if Flynn had been negotiating with a foreign government before taking office.

It’s illegal for private citizens to conduct U.S. diplomacy. Flynn’s conversations also raise questions about Trump’s friendly posture toward Russia after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Moscow hacked Democratic emails during the election.

The controversy comes as Trump and his top advisers seek to steady the White House after a rocky start. The president, who seeks input from a wide range of business associates, friends and colleagues, has been asking people their opinions on his senior team, including Spicer and Priebus.

Advisers have privately conceded that the White House spit out too many disparate messages in the first few weeks, though they also note that the president’s own tweets sometimes muddy the day’s plans before most of the White House staff has arrived for work.

Trump voiced support for Priebus Monday, saying the chief of staff was doing, “not a good job, a great job.” But he did not make a similar show of support for his national security adviser.

Flynn sat in the front row of Trump’s news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier Monday. The president did not receive a question about Flynn’s future from the two reporters who were called upon, and he ignored journalists’ shouted follow-up inquiries as he left the room.

Over the weekend, Trump told associates he was troubled by the situation, but did not say whether he planned to ask Flynn to step down, according to a person who spoke with him recently. Flynn was a loyal Trump supporter during the campaign, but he is viewed skeptically by some in the administration’s national security circles, in part because of his ties to Russia.

In 2015, Flynn was paid to attend a gala dinner for Russia Today, a Kremlin-backed television station, and sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin during the event.

Flynn spoke with the vice president about the matter twice on Friday, according to an administration official. The official said Pence was relying on information from Flynn when he went on television and denied that sanctions were discussed with Kislyak.

The administration officials and those who spoke with the president recently were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and insisted on anonymity.

The controversy surrounding Flynn comes as the young administration grapples with a series of national security challenges, including North Korea’s reported ballistic missile launch. The president, who was joined at his Mar-a-Lago estate by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over the weekend, voiced solidarity with Japan.

The White House is also dealing with fallout from the rocky rollout of Trump’s immigration executive order, which has been blocked by the courts. The order was intended to suspend the nation’s refugee program and bar citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

China blocks US move to get Masood Azhar banned by UN

WASHINGON, Feb 7: In one of the Obama administration’s last actions in January, the US moved a proposal in support of India’s application to have Pakistan-based Masood Azhar included in a UN list of designated terrorists but China blocked the move in a cynical show of solidarity with its “iron brother” Pakistan.

The proposal moved on January 19, a day before Barack Obama handed over charge to President Donald Trump, was co-sponsored by Britain and France “as a fresh counter-terrorism effort, a part of a global move”, , according to officials who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

The proposal, finalised after consultations between Washington and New Delhi, said JeM was a designated terror group and its leaders could not go scot-free.

China blocked it on February 2, as it has several times before. “China opposed the US move by putting a hold on the proposal just before the expiry of the 10-day deadline for any proposal to be adopted or blocked or to be put on hold,” said an official in New Delhi.

Refusing to give details as deliberations of the UN sanctions committee are confidential, a US state department spokesman said on Tuesday, “The US believes the UN ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qaeda sanctions list plays a vital role in international efforts to counter terrorist financing and travel, and we will continue to work with the sanctions committee to ensure that the list is updated and accurate.”

Another US official said on background that the “designations and this one in particular is something we have been working on for some time … (and) … using the UN Designations process, even if they were blocked, was a critically important part of our CT cooperation and an important way to bring global attention to the most serious terror cases and actors.

“We have been informed of the development and the matter has been taken up with the Chinese government,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.

Beijing has not publicly assigned any reason for blocking the US proposal. But it has called it a “technical hold” in the past, saying it was based on “facts” and “procedure”. Chinese diplomats have suggested India needs to sort this out with Pakistan.

Azhar is the founder of Jaish-e-Mohammed, a Pakistan-based terror group held responsible for recent attacks on an airbase in Pathankot in January 2016 and on an Indian Army camp at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir in September, which led to unprecedented surgical strikes by Indian forces along the Line of Control.

Beijing first blocked India’s application on Azhar before the UN sanctions committee — which goes by the lengthy name of Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011), and 2253 (2015) concerning ISIL (Da’esh, names for Islamic State) al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities — in April and then again in October.

The designation would have enjoined UN member states to freeze assets owned by Azhar in their jurisdictions, deny him entry or exit and not supply to him any sort of weapons. JeM was designated in 2001 and several operatives and organisations associated with the group have also been put on the UN blacklist.

The US designated JeM a foreign terrorist organisation in 2001 and Azhar as a terrorist in 2010. A close associate of Azhar’s, Sheikh Ahmed Saeed Omar, masterminded the kidnapping and murder of The Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002.

There is all round support for India’s application but according to the rules, all 15 members of the UN sanctions committee must approve fresh designations.

The US’s help, as of other members of the Security Council has been critical for India in the past, in adding Dawood Ibrahim, gangster and terrorist, and Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, to the UN list.

A “hold” at the UN sanctions panel remains for six months and can be extended by three months. During this period, it can be converted into a “block”, thereby ending the life of the proposal.

Trump travel ban reversed: President runs into US system of checks and balances

WASHINGTON, Feb 6: Like his predecessor, President Donald Trump seized on a go-it-alone strategy for fast-tracking his agenda. It took him two weeks to run into the nation’s system of checks and balances.

The legal battle over his executive order on immigration and refugees is a surprisingly early demonstration of a lesson all presidents learn eventually. Governing by executive action may appear easier and faster, but it carries its own legal and political risks.

President Barack Obama was confronted with that reality late in his tenure when, thwarted by the GOP-controlled House, he used what he called a “pen and phone” strategy to advance his agenda. He ultimately found one of his most sweeping actions, the expansion of a program deferring deportation for some immigrants, blocked by the courts, while Republicans blasted him for what they said was an abuse of power.

Republicans have been notably quiet as Trump has taken a similar approach, particularly taking advantage of the precedent giving the president broad leeway when it comes to immigration.

A federal judge’s order in Seattle Friday evening blocking Trump’s ban on admitting travellers from seven predominantly Muslim countries showed the limits of the president’s powers and the role of checks and balances among the three branches of government. The administration appealed the judge’s order, but the higher court denied its request for an immediate stay that would have enabled Trump to reinstate the ban.

The State Department cancelled visas for about 60,000 people from the affected countries; the legal setbacks had many rushing to restore their documents and find flights to the United States over the weekend.

Trump isn’t alone in trying to maximize executive muscle. Presidents rarely voluntarily restrict their own power. And recent presidents also have used a burst of unilateral action to spur progress at the start of their administrations and to set a tone for Congress, where legislation often moves slowly.

Trump’s opening weeks have shown he’s likely to rely on the Republicans who hold a majority in Congress to pass top agenda items like overhauling the “Obamacare” law, changing the tax code and repairing aging roads and bridges.

The President has also signed a blitz of actions on border security, health care and financial regulation, showing few signs of slowing down.

On Friday, Trump administration imposed sanctions on companies and individuals in response to Iran’s recent ballistic missile test — after months of bitter criticism of Obama’s landmark nuclear deal with Tehran.

Still, his actions stand out for their sweep and haste. On some issues, Trump didn’t just leapfrog Congress, where his own party is in control, he cut Republicans out of the consultations and roll-out of his plans.

“I think that Trump has been unusually aggressive in the scope of what he is trying to do and also I think remarkably casual in issuing orders and other actions that don’t appear to have gone through what would be a typical process of reviewing and vetting and consideration,” said Kenneth Mayer, a University of Wisconsin professor who has studied executive actions by presidents.

Since Inauguration Day, Trump has signed 20 memoranda and executive orders. That number is in line with Obama’s first two weeks. One of his orders directly reversed one of Obama’s early orders: The former president signed a memorandum in his first week in 2009, rescinding a ban on providing federal money to international groups that perform or provide information on abortions. Trump reinstituted the regulation, known as the “Mexico City Policy,” on his first day in office.

In this, Mayer said Trump’s use of unilateral powers has shown some similarities to a general pattern set in 1993, 2001 and 2009 — when the White House switched parties.

But he added that “there’s a big qualification”. None of those incoming presidents sparked the controversy that Trump did last week. Chaos at airports and concern around the world quickly followed Trump’s signing of the executive order to temporarily ban all refugees and also travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries.

The President said quick, forceful action was needed to reduce the threat of terrorist attacks.

The executive actions on immigration have led to lawsuits. Interest groups also have vowed to challenge any unilateral efforts to curtail Obama’s environmental regulations and other rules.

Despite his initial flurry of action, Obama became more reliant upon executive orders during his second term, when he faced opposition from Republicans. “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” he declared at one point, promising public orders and personal efforts to build support. When he acted unilaterally on immigration in 2014, providing temporary legal status to millions living in the US illegally, Republicans insisted he was acting illegally.

The House speaker at the time, John Boehner, accused him of acting like a king or an emperor.

This time, with full control of the White House and Congress, Republicans have been largely muted in their assessments of Trump’s executive actions.

A notable exception has been Arizona Senator John McCain, who warned Trump not to allow the resumption of enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding following reports that the new administration was planning a review.

“The President can sign whatever executive orders he likes. But the law is the law. We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America,” McCain said.

Democrats are broadly and bitterly opposed to Trump’s proposals — on the health care law, oil pipelines and the border wall — as well as the unilateral way he’s going about pursuing some of them.

“What he is doing is reprehensible to them in most cases,” said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic strategist and former aide to former House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt. The go-it-alone approach, Elmendorf said, is “going to inflame the base of the party and make it hard for Democrats to work with him on other issues.”

Even members of Trump’s own party have distanced themselves from the roll-out of his executive orders on immigration. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said that Trump “didn’t think it through” and the orders were a “classic example of putting something out there that wasn’t ready for prime time”.

But Graham said the bumpy start still pales in comparison to Obama’s use of executive action, pointing to federal courts blocking the former president’s executive actions on immigration and a piece of his health care overhaul.

“Look what Obama did. His executive orders got struck down by the court. I’m not going to listen to a bunch of Democrats complain about Trump when they sat on the sidelines and did nothing about Obama,” he said.

How Japan Can ‘Win’ With Trump

By Daniel Twining

WASHINGTON, Feb 2: Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the first foreign leader to meet Donald Trump after his election as U.S. president in November. On Febuary 3, Secretary of Defense James Mattis will visit Japan on his first overseas trip as the new U.S. secretary of defense. This early engagement suggests that Tokyo can play a pivotal role in shaping the Trump administration’s foreign and security policy. But Japanese officials must be smart in pitching alliance cooperation to capture Trump’s imagination. Japan is in a unique position to do this, given the many ways it could help Trump achieve his more mutually beneficial goals, at home and abroad.

First, for an American president skeptical about the value of alliances, Japan can pitch itself as a model ally that is no freeloader, but in fact shares the burden of maintaining peace in the Pacific. Japan underwrites American forces stationed in Okinawa, making them cheaper to deploy there than they would be in California. Japan is increasing its defense budget and deploying sophisticated military capabilities not only to defend itself, but to help protect America, for instance by collaborating in missile defenses against North Korea. Japan is expanding its military ties with U.S. partners, including India, Southeast Asian nations, and NATO, which in turn reinforces their capacity to work with America’s armed forces. Japan supports America’s global posture, including support for missions in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Second, a stronger Japanese alliance can help make America “great again,” Trump’s overarching aim, by magnifying U.S. power and influence as it increasingly comes under challenge, including from revisionist powers. China and Russia have few allies, and none of consequence — the differentiator between the United States and its peer competitors is that Washington has an alliance network that spans the globe. Greatness is in part a function of followership — and many countries, starting with Japan, want to partner with America. Japan’s continued support for the U.S. alliance will make it easier for Trump to achieve his goals in Asia — including preventing Chinese domination of the region. This makes the U.S. better off and is a key part of its comparative advantage against rivals.

Third, Japanese leaders can help Washington’s new governing class understand that its country is not a trade threat but an essential economic partner. Japan is one of the top foreign investors in the United States. Three out of every four Japanese cars and trucks sold in the United States, nearly four million per year, are actually built in North America; Japanese car companies employ thousands of Americans in the kinds of well-paid manufacturing jobs Trump wants to protect.

Japan is not the export threat it was in the “Rising Sun” days of the 1980s. Chinese acquisitions of American companies, not Japanese, risk endangering U.S. national security. Japanese companies and capital can be part of the national rejuvenation that Trump has promised American voters, in part because so much U.S.-Japan economic activity comes from domestic production and investment rather than from traditional trade flows.

Fourth, Japan can support the domestic energy revolution that Trump seeks to unleash to increase American economic growth. Japan is almost entirely dependent on imported sources of energy. The first U.S. shipments of liquefied natural gas arrived in Japan in early January. Between traditional oil and gas extraction as well as the use of new technologies to tap shale and “tight” oil, North American energy production will exceed the capacity of the U.S. market to absorb it. Key to boosting domestic production will be exports to overseas markets. Japan, until now dependent on risky sources of supply in the Middle East, would benefit hugely from the stability of supply and relative lack of political risk associated with American energy exports. Energy cooperation is the kind of win-win proposition that could boost both countries’ economies and security.

Fifth, Japan will be central to America’s economic engagement in Asia in the wake of Trump’s unfortunate withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. The heart of the TPP was the liberalization of trade and investment between the United States and Japan, including in areas of American advantage like services, agriculture, and the digital economy.

Trump has focused on promoting exports from America’s heavy manufacturers. In fact, more than 80 percent of American economic output is in services and other forms of “software,” rather than the kind of “hardware” which China and other less-developed economies produce at lower cost. The U.S. enjoys a $400 billion annual trade surplus in services. The Trump administration could carve out parts of the TPP that especially support American economic competitiveness and negotiate a new bilateral deal with Japan that fills the gap left by the TPP.

Sixth, Japan can be a key part of the equation in any reset of U.S.-Russia relations under Trump. Abe is pursuing his own reset with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in hopes of settling their World War II-era dispute over the Northern Territories. Like the United States, Japan has a compelling interest in precluding the formation of a China-Russia alliance that dominates Eurasia and threatens the free nations along its littoral. If Trump genuinely wants a rapprochement with Russia, in part to help form a sturdier balancing coalition against China in Asia, Japan could be a valuable partner in that endeavor.

Seventh, Trump clearly envisions a more competitive relationship with China — in which case an invigorated U.S.-Japan alliance gives Washington additional leverage, and complicates Beijing’s ability to directly confront the United States. Japan under Abe is positioning itself to challenge China’s efforts to assert what it deems to be its natural hegemony over Asia. Japan, in this sense, is a frontline state that is standing up for the same goal as America, which has much to lose from any Chinese sphere of influence that restricts U. S. economic and military access to a dynamic region.

Japanese officials worry that Trump might make a deal with Beijing over their heads in ways that subordinate Japanese interests, including on the security of Taiwan. The Trump administration would be wiser to cooperate more closely with Japan in order to uphold Asia’s existing maritime order, subvert China’s quest for suzerainty over the international waters of the South China Sea, and reinforce the military balance in Asia in favor of the democracies and China-wary nations like Vietnam.

Many traditional U.S. allies are despairing at the prospect of dealing with an American administration they feel does not value them. The smart play for a core ally like Japan is to make itself relevant to the Trump administration’s foreign and economic policy priorities, underlining the added value to the United States of continuing close partnership.

 

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