Get Ready for Some Nuclear Chicken

Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN's Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Jason Miks.

May 24, 2018

Get Ready for Some Nuclear Chicken

President Trump's decision to cancel next month's summit with Kim Jong Un leaves the situation on the Korean Peninsula potentially more dangerous than it was before the summit was announced. "We may be headed for a game of chicken, with Trump and Kim at the wheel," Nicholas Kristof writes for The New York Times.

The North Koreans "used the rush of diplomacy to rebuild ties with Beijing and start discussions about economic integration with South Korea, and to moderate their international image. They've also created something of a wedge between Washington and Seoul," Kristof writes.

"In weighing the risks ahead, commentators sometimes note that Kim is rational and doesn't want to commit suicide. That's true, but doesn't particularly encourage me. Rational actors regularly make awful decisions. Saddam Hussein wasn't suicidal, and neither was George W. Bush, but they both acted in ways in Iraq that were catastrophic."
  • Trump might still win by walking away. After all, no deal is better than a bad one, writes Eli Lake for Bloomberg. And Kim might find that his nuclear deterrent doesn't save him from regime change that is precipitated from within.
Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev came close to an agreement at their 1986 summit "that would end the arms race that had bankrupted the Soviets. But at the last minute, Gorbachev asked Reagan to end testing missile defense systems. The [John] Bolton of that scenario—administration hard-liner Richard Perle—told Reagan that this demand would kill the Pentagon's program.

"Reagan went against popular opinion and walked out of the summit." The Soviet Union ultimately collapsed.

Did China Rain on Trump's Parade?

North Korea's amped-up rhetoric this week has China's fingerprints all over it, suggests Joseph Bosco for The Hill. Beijing has benefited from the status quo, so it's hardly surprising it would want to play spoiler.

"Pyongyang blamed the disruption on the US-South Korea joint exercises, but no one takes that excuse seriously," Bosco writes.

"A likely explanation is that an agreement between North Korea and the United States to end the nuclear threat would deprive Beijing of the benefits and leverage it has enjoyed for decades as a 'responsible international stakeholder' and indispensable partner to Washington […] No longer would we hear American officials advising restraint and patience toward Beijing on trade or Taiwan or the South China Sea or human rights because, after all, 'we need China's help on North Korea.'

"Trump administration policies are exposing the reality that China has a vested interest in a continuing North Korea crisis and diplomatic stalemate."

The Lasting Harm of Team Trump's "Pro-Israel" Policy

President Trump was right to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, but that doesn't mean he is a pro-Israel president, writes Max Boot in The Washington Post. In fact, it's far from clear he's operating in Israel's best interests.
 
"Trump is, with Netanyahu's connivance, exacerbating a dangerous trend: the end of the bipartisan consensus on Israel. Conservatives have become increasingly pro-Israel, liberals increasingly pro-Palestinian. A recent Pew poll found that nearly twice as many liberal Democrats sympathize with the Palestinians than with Israel. This is a big problem for Israel's future, unless one assumes that Republicans will hold power forever," Boot writes.
 
"The more that Trump…becomes identified with Israel, the less popular Israel is likely to become. His embrace of Israel is even more neuralgic in other countries, where his popularity level is approaching negative numbers. Trump may not care but supporters of Israel should."

Antarctica Is Heating Up, In More Ways Than One

It's a region almost twice the size of Australia, with enormous, untapped resources. Yet it has no government—just an almost 60-year-old treaty system to try to keep order, write Leslie Hook and Benedict Mander in the Financial Times. As the world's geopolitics—and the planet itself—heat up, it's not clear this Antarctic idealism can hold much longer.
 
"At stake is the last pristine continent, one that contains the world's largest store of freshwater, huge potential reserves of oil and gas and the key to understanding how quickly climate change will impact the world through rising sea levels," they write.
 
"Signatories to the treaty…agree to set aside their territorial claims, and use the continent only for peaceful purposes. However, the growing number of signatories has made the system unwieldy: In 1980 there were just 13 countries that had 'consultative' status to make the key decisions on treaty matters—that number has risen to 29…"
 
"Meanwhile the number of permanent scientific research stations on the island, a proxy for activity, has grown to more than 75. China has been a particularly enthusiastic builder of new research stations since it joined the treaty in 1983..."
 

Another Reason Climate Change Is Bad for Your Health…

A changing climate won't just be about whether crops can continue to grow in certain places. A new study cited by Science News suggests that the anticipated higher carbon dioxide concentrations will also impact the nutritional value of crops like rice—and that could have implications for the health of hundreds of millions of people.
 
"Testing higher carbon dioxide concentrations in experimental rice paddies in China predicts losses in four [B] vitamins," Susan Milius writes.
 
"Such declines in rice nutrients could hit economically strapped populations in Asia the hardest. Nine of the world's 10 most rice-dependent countries are in Asia. (The other is Madagascar.) The researchers predict that about 600 million people currently without good options for switching diets could risk nutrient deficiencies from rice declines."
 

The Most Powerful Passports Now Belong To…

There's a new "most powerful" passport, according to the latest Henley & Partners Passport Index, which ranks countries according to the number of places that their holders can travel to visa-free.
 
A Japanese passport allows holders to travel to 189 destinations visa-free or with visa-on-arrival access, the Index notes, with "Singapore and Germany in joint 2nd place, with 188 destinations accessible without a prior visa."
 
"While Schengen Area countries have traditionally topped the index as a result of their open access to Europe, developed Asian nations have been able to secure equally high scores in recent years thanks to their strong international trade and diplomatic relations."

 

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