Financial Times – Demetri Sevastopulo, Aime Williams & Edward White / US seizes North Korean ship as tensions rise
- The US ramped up pressure on North Korea on Thursday as Donald Trump rebuked Pyongyang following recent missile tests and the justice department announced it had seized a North Korean cargo ship suspected of carrying coal, in violation of US and UN sanctions.
- Trump spoke after South Korean officials had reported that Pyongyang had fired two “projectiles”. “They were smaller missiles, short-range missiles,” Trump said. “Nobody’s happy about it.”
- Trump said the relationship between Washington and Pyongyang “continues”. “I know they want to negotiate. They’re talking about negotiating, but I don’t think they’re ready to negotiate.”
- Experts expect an increase in the frequency of missile launches from North Korea as Pyongyang pushes the US to change its position. Andrei Lankov, of the Kookmin University, said tests would probably continue “for months to come” as Kim returned to a strategy of “creating a crisis” to win concessions.
Foreign Policy – Lara Seligman / The Pentagon is finally getting a new defense secretary
- After more than four months as acting US defense secretary, the longest anyone has served in that position, Patrick Shanahan will be formally nominated to become President Donald Trump’s permanent Pentagon chief.
- The long-awaited appointment comes after the Pentagon’s inspector general conclusively cleared Shanahan of violating his ethics agreement after accusations that he inappropriately favored his former employer, Boeing.
- Shanahan must still be confirmed by the Senate. But despite a fallout with Senator Lindsey Graham over withdrawing US forces from Syria and a series of rocky performances on Capitol Hill, it seems lawmakers are coming around to the choice.
- Shanahan is expected to drive continued focus on the growing threat from China and on investing in high-end capabilities to counter that threat. Sources close to him say he is also driving a tougher posture on Turkey in the debate over Ankara’s plan to buy the Russian S-400 missile system.
Politico – Riccardo Alcaro & Nathalie Tocci / Europe can still save the Iran nuclear deal
- After the US withdrew from the JCPOA, EU hoped Iran would stick to it while not receiving its fair due. The benefits for Iran were still significant: for the first time since 1979, Tehran had the near-unanimous support of the international community. It was fully abiding by international law and multilateralism.
- Moreover, trade with Europe – however small – would still provide the economic advantages needed for Iranian supporters of the JCPOA. But, sadly, Europeans have been unable to safeguard their oil imports from Iran and prevent it from being disconnected from international financial markets.
- The US administration is counting on sanctions being so harsh that social and political unrest would destabilize the Iranian regime from within. The Trump administration has also provoked Iran into abandoning the JCPOA, thereby reopening the possibility of military strikes against its nuclear facilities.
- Just as the quest for European autonomy rightly calls upon European leaders not to accept Iran’s ultimatums, it also requires them not to cave into what has been an outrageous attempt by the US to treat European countries as vassal states and the EU as an adversary.
- Not only should the special purpose vehicle devised by the EU become fully operational, but far more consequentially, the E3 – the UK, France and Germany – should work with China and Russia to restore at least part of Iran’s ability to export oil, including by envisaging oil swaps between Russia and Iran.
Euractiv – Sam Morgan / EU heads adopt vague declaration on future of Europe
- Heads of state and government from the EU-27 signed off on broad-brush ‘ten commitments’ for the EU’s next five years on Thursday in the Romanian city of Sibiu. The Sibiu Declaration is less substantial and specific than traditional European Council summit conclusions.
- In what was meant to be the first high-level meeting of European leaders after the United Kingdom was supposed to leave the bloc, mention of the word ‘Brexit’ was kept to an absolute minimum.
- Referring to the UK, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters on arriving at the Sibiu meeting that “if they stay they stay. If they go they go.”
- Leaders including Luxembourg’s Xavier Bettel and Lithuania’s Dalia Grybauskaite made it clear that the current system for the selection of the European Commission President, the Spitzenkandidat process, is likely to be scrapped this time around.
- Project Syndicate – Kemal Derviş / More or less Europe?
The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.