Strategic Observer


Daily Observations for 12 December 2019

Daily Observations for 12 December 2019
December 12
16:31 2019

Good morning, and welcome to my Daily Observations.

On my radar: North Korean defector says Trump is being “tricked” by Kim Jong-un

A U.S. media outlet reported this morning that a former ranking North Korean official who defected a year ago penned a letter to President Trump advising him that Kim Jong-un was trying to “trick” him into believing he wants to denuclearize. Also, according to the report, the defector encouraged Trump to apply maximum sanctions pressure and launch a “psychological campaign” to encourage North Korean elites to overthrow Kim. Some observations. I can’t imagine that Trump ever went into his diplomatic push to denuclearize NK with his eyes closed. Secondly, it’s not clear what other information this defector has provided, but the report said he was well-known and well-established in U.S. national security circles, meaning he’s probably trusted. He also made the point that changing regimes in Pyongyang is something the North Koreans should do themselves, an argument against a military strike, though he mentioned the U.S. should be prepared to attack nuclear sites. Since this defection, it’s also hard telling what Kim has done to adjust to the loss of intelligence — has he changed locations of nuclear installations? Weapons? Etc. As to the premise that Trump is being duped, I find it difficult to imagine the president would allow himself of the country to be put at unnecessary risk. If this all works out with Kim, fine, but if not, then Trump seems willing to continue a campaign of sanctions and external pressure, knowing he won’t have any help from China.

What I’m also tracking:

US will send 20,000 troops for largest European military drill since Cold War [source]

Strength in numbers in the eastern Indian Ocean [sourceAnalyst comment: India is the dominant regional power there but it needs help.

NATO vs China & Russia: Its Time Western Powers Change Approach [source]

China begins fresh construction work on disputed South China Sea island [source]

One final thing:

“Italy is thus the de facto center of U.S. military activity in the area. It hosts the second-largest number of U.S. troops in Europe (after Germany), providing bases for some 30,000 military and civilian staff in various parts of the country. It is one of the U.S.’s strongest partners in tackling problems of international security, including in humanitarian efforts in such varied locations as Kosovo, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. Italy is one of the largest European contributors to the coalition against ISIL, and also contributes significantly to efforts in alleviating pressures from the ongoing migration crisis in the Mediterranean region, with Italy being one of the countries receiving the greatest number of migrants and refugees on its shores.

“However, there are two disconcerting factors that may endanger the closeness and productivity of that relationship: Italy’s economic troubles, and the United States’ changing relationship with its NATO allies.” [source]

Notable Quotable: “We’re not asking people to choose between us and China. Do our allies and partners seek out our assistance for advice on security issues, diplomatic issues? The code of conduct in the South China Sea, for example, is one.” — Adm. Philip Davidson, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. 

About Author



Jonathan Davis holds a BA in political science and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis. He has 30 years' worth of experience reporting on domestic politics and foreign policy.

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