Balance of Power: Kim’s Nuclear Wedge Between Allies

U.S. President Donald Trump took Beijing to task (again) after North Korea’s sixth and most powerful nuclear detonation. But it was his criticism of a key ally that got all the attention.

Trump’s charge that South Korea is seeking to appease Kim Jong Un drew an immediate rebuttal from President Moon Jae-in, who favors talks. What’s more, Moon has said, any strike on North Korea should be his decision, not Trump’s.

A test of world unity will come this morning when the United Nations Security Council meets.

While the U.S. wants China and Russia to cut off oil sales to North Korea, China may only back a partial ban for fear of triggering regime collapse (and the chaos that would ensue) in Pyongyang. Beijing described Trump’s threat to cut off all trade with nations that do business with North Korea as unfair.

In the long-run, though, it’s Trump’s differences with Moon that may prove to be the biggest issue. Not only is the discord playing into North Korea’s hands, it’s got some worried Seoul may soon be tempted to seek its own nuclear weapons.

Moon and Trump after a joint statement in Washington in June.
Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

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Global Headlines

Message to Congress | Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called on lawmakers to “put politics aside” and quickly pass a Hurricane Harvey aid package paired with a boost in the federal borrowing cap. The debt limit increase shouldn’t include other provisions, such as spending cuts that conservative GOP lawmakers have demanded, Mnuchin told Fox News. 

Schulz stumbles in Berlin | Sunday night’s TV debate between Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz produced few real sparks, and that’s precisely the challenger’s problem. Schulz all too often agreed with the chancellor, on refugees, Turkey or Trump. Flash polls found her the debate winner. After it was over, Schulz berated a journalist, while Merkel allowed herself a glass of wine. 

Europe goes back to work | With summer holidays over, European leaders are turning to the agenda for the months ahead. As Robert Hutton explains, Brexit dominates the U.K. landscape. Yet it’s barely registering in France, where President Emmanuel Macron has his hands full with labor reform, or in Germany, where it didn't even merit a mention in the televised debate.

India gets serious on defense | Former Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman became the first full-time defense minister in six months, amid rising tensions with neighbors China and Pakistan. The move allows Finance Minister Arun Jaitley — who’d been juggling both posts — to focus on the economy. Sitharaman is only the second woman in the role in 35 years and now faces the task of modernizing one of the world’s largest, if antiquated, militaries.

Decision on “Dreamers” ? |  Trump is strongly considering giving Congress six months to devise an alternative before ending an Obama-era program that shields young undocumented immigrants — known as Dreamers — from deportation, Politico reports. The approach would aim to appease Republicans and business leaders who have urged the president not to scrap the program.

And finally ... An American actor who’s appeared in movies starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Tom Cruise landed an unwitting role in a video suggesting Ukraine’s leading anti-graft campaigner embezzled funds. “I thought it was a prank,” Michael-John Wolfe said. “I apologize if anyone was hurt.” But the damage was done after the video was cited by some as the real deal. As our Kiev bureau reports, the struggle against graft in Europe’s most-corrupt country is a real-life thriller. 

Screen shot of fake newscast suggesting Anti-Corruption Action Center founder Vitaliy Shabunin is guilty of embezzlement.

 

— With assistance by Kathleen Hunter

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