Trump makes headlines on another unpredictable day in office David Knowles •The real first sign that Thursday was going to be a particularly tumultuous day for Donald Trump came at the start of what was billed to be a West Virginia roundtable about tax reform.“This was going to be my remarks,” Trump told his West Virginia audience while holding up a copy of prepared talking points. “It would have taken about two minutes, but, to hell with it. Reading off the first paragraph, I said, ‘This is boring.’ Come on. Tell it like it is.”What followed next had nothing to do with tax reform. The president proceeded to resurrect his own conspiracy theory about why he trailed Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes in the 2016 election.“In many places, like California, the same person votes many times,” Trump said. “You’ve probably heard about that. They always like to say, ‘Oh, that’s a conspiracy theory.’ It’s not a conspiracy theory, folks. Millions and millions of people.”No credible evidence has been presented to support Trump’s voter fraud claims, and he quickly moved on to another highly charged assertion. Referencing his incendiary campaign launch, during which he portrayed Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” Trump appeared to concoct another unverifiable story.“Everybody said, ‘Oh, he was so tough,’ and I used the word rape,” Trump said before referencing an annual symbolic caravan of Honduran immigrants in Mexico. “And yesterday it came out where this journey coming up, women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before. They don’t want to mention that.”It was unclear what news report the president might be referring to. Although some Honduran immigrants have fled their home country because of violence, including rape, no recent news stories about rape and this year’s caravan could be sourced.President Donald Trump talks with reporters aboard Air Force One, Thursday, April 5, 2018, in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)After the West Virginia event came to an end, the president returned to Washington aboard Air Force One, but wasn’t done grabbing headlines. The president surprised reporters on the plane by taking questions after making an appearance in the main cabin.“Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?” a reporter asked the president.“No,” Trump responded.“Then why did Michael Cohen make it?” the reporter asked about the president’s personal lawyer, “if there was no truth to her allegations?”“You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen,” Trump replied. “Michael’s my attorney, and you’ll have to ask Michael.”Another reporter then asked Trump if he knew where Cohen got the money to make the payment.“No,” Trump said. “I don’t know.”His denial was the first time the president had spoken publicly about Daniels, who alleges she had an affair with Trump in 2006 and was paid $130,000 in hush money during the presidential election.As night fell on Washington, the president had one more surprise up his sleeve, making an announcement sure to roil the stock market and the nerves of congressional Republicans seeking re-election in 2018.“In light of China’s unfair retaliation, I have instructed the USTR to consider whether $100 billion of additional tariffs would be appropriate under section 301 and, if so, to identify the products upon which to impose such tariffs,” Trump said in a statement.Trump’s own chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, had spent much of the last two days trying to assure investors that a full-blown trade war with Beijing was not in the offing, but news of possible new tariffs sent Dow futures plummeting Thursday night.If anything, each subsequent, self-inflicted headline served to obscure the one Trump had made hours earlier. When looked at in retrospect, however, some historians will no doubt be tempted to ask why the president didn’t simply stick to his original script in West Virginia.If anything, each subsequent, self-inflicted headline served to obscure the one Trump had made hours earlier. When looked at in retrospect, however, some historians will no doubt be tempted to ask why the president didn’t simply stick to his original script in West Virginia.
China’s Xi has a key advantage over Trump in any trade war Michael B. Kelley Editor •U.S. President Donald Trump takes part in a welcoming ceremony with China’s President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Damir SagoljIf the world’s two largest economies are heading toward a trade war, time is on China’s side.“Don’t forget: The Chinese have a very long-term view,” Bloomberg News Chief Content Officer Marty Schenker argued on Wednesday, while noting that Chinese President Xi Jinping no longer has term limits. “He’s going to be there long after Donald Trump is gone. So they’re in this for the long haul, and they’re playing hardball.”On Tuesday evening, the Trump administration announced 25% tariffs on more than 1,000 industrial technology, transport, and medical products amounting to about $50 billion in 2018 imports. China swiftly countered with proportional tariffs of up to 25% on more than 100 U.S. goods. The latest move followed a previous round of reciprocal tariffs worth about $3 billion.And while Chinese officials encouraged negotiations, Beijing doesn’t seem to be backing down.“Even though China and the U.S. have not publicly said they are in a trade war, the sparks of such a war have already started to fly,” an editorial in China’s government-backed Global Times newspaper announced. “There are some people in the West who think that China looks tough for the sake of a domestic audience, and would easily make concessions. But they are wrong.”Charting the value of Chinese products imposed with increased tariffs by the U.S. government. REUTERSThere’s no telling how long the trade tensions will last. Trump faces pressure that don’t exist for Xi, including criticism for market turmoil and political risks in the run-up to 2018 midterm elections. At the same time, the American president is buoyed by the popular notion that a rising China has taken advantage of the current trade relationship.“Does [Trump] care what this is doing to the markets?” Greg Valliere, Chief Global Strategist at Horizon Investments, wrote in a new note. “Yes, of course, but he has an election to win, and a base to satisfy, so the markets may have to endure the volatility for months to come.”Trump tweeted that the trade war with China was already lost, blaming previous U.S. administrations.He later added: “When you’re already $500 Billion DOWN, you can’t lose!” When asked about the tweet, new top White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said he was “not sure what exactly he’s referring to.”In any case, markets are jittery as China patiently matches the Trump administration’s moves.“This is a game of chicken, with both sides seeing the other as the bigger chicken,” Scott Kennedy, a China scholar at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Bloomberg. “They are positioned in a way that could create miscalculations on both sides and create an escalatory ladder.”Follow Michael B. Kelley on Twitter @MichaelBKelley.Follow Yahoo Finance on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Russia to Join U.S.-China South China Sea Face Off After Vietnam PactDavid Brennan •Russia has agreed a new military cooperation roadmap with Vietnam, which could bring Moscow into the ongoing power struggle between the China and the U.S. in the South China Sea. The deal was signed by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his Vietnamese counterpart General Ngo Xuan Lich in Moscow on Wednesday, Russian news agency TASS reported.The agreement—signed on the sidelines of the seventh Moscow Conference on International Security—set out the details of military cooperation between the two countries from 2018 until 2020. Gen. Ngo told Shoigu he was pleased that Russia and Vietnam were taking steps to increase their military and naval coordination.Trending: Is Flu Season Over Yet?As part of the agreement, Russia will deploy a rescue boat from its Pacific fleet to Vietnam, which will take part in search and rescue operations in the region. Moscow will also send a delegation to Vietnam to continue work on a draft deal on search and rescue operations for disabled submarines.Sergey Shoygu and Ngo Xuan Lich Russia Vietnam Though Moscow and Hanoi have a defense relationship dating back to the Vietnam War, Russia is now promoting a stronger and public presence. The Russian and Vietnamese navies are an important element of this relationship. In February, two Russian-built Gepard-class frigates entered service in Vietnam’s navy, joining two others that had been delivered in 2011 as part of a $350 million contract.The two countries have agreed to conduct joint military training and Gen. Ngo said 176 Vietnamese soldiers would travel to Russia for instruction. At the end of January, it was announced that the Russian and Vietnamese militaries were drawing up plans for joint military drills to be held over the next three years.In March, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russian-Vietnamese military alignment was working towards “an architecture of cooperation that would ensure sustainable development and meet interests of security” in Asia.Don’t miss: People Are Getting Non-Resident Concealed Carry Permits Through Virginia, Skirting Local Gun LawsThe diplomatic offensive is party of a wider Russian effort in southeast Asia, where Moscow is also pursuing closer relations with Vietnam’s western neighbour Laos. In January, Shoigu visited the landlocked country to build on an increasingly close military relationship. After the visit, Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith said virtually “everything the Laotian Armed Forces now have is linked with Russia.”Russia clearly considers southeast Asia a fertile ground for closer diplomatic ties and arms sales. With Vietnam and Laos, Moscow also seems to be cultivating ties to fellow authoritarian governments. Closer relations between Moscow and Hanoi could give Russia direct access to the hotly contested South China Sea. In April 2017, three ships from the Russian Pacific Fleet conducted a five-day visit to the Vietnamese port of Cam Ranh. As military cooperation grows, such visits are likely to become more regular.Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan all have territorial claims on the South China Sea’s rich fishing grounds, vital sea routes and potential natural resources. China has come under fire for creating artificial islands to enforce its claims, and the U.S. has conducted several “freedom of navigation” operations nearby to re-assert its authority.Most popular: Stan Lee’s Stolen Blood Stamped on Signed ‘Black Panther’ Comics?China is investing heavily in modernizing its naval and air forces to challenge U.S. influence and enforce its regional policy. Russia now looks to be throwing its significant influence into play, though whether it will pick sides or strike out alone remains to be seen. China and Russia have previously held joint drills in the South China Sea, showing that the two navies can work together. There is a chance that Russia will be caught between Chinese and its own interests in the South China Sea, but for now Beijing and Moscow are getting on well. On Tuesday, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Feng said he was attending the Moscow conference “to show Americans the close ties between the armed forces of China and Russia… We’ve come to support you.”Both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese premier Xi Jinping have consolidated their domestic power in recent months. The two authoritarian governments reject democratic western liberalism and see each other as useful counterweights to America’s superpower clout, not to mention its network of western and NATO allies.Thanks to the efforts of Xi and Putin, Shoigu said, relations between Russia and China are reaching “unprecedentedly high” levels. In November 2011, President Barack Obama said he had taken a “deliberate and strategic decision” that the U.S. “will play a larger and long-term role in shaping [the Asia-Pacific] region and its future.”With Chinese soft and hard power growing ever-stronger and Russian influence spreading, the future shape of Asia Pacific will not be decided by the U.S. alone.This article was first written by Newsweek
World Chinese Defense Minister Says China will ‘Support’ Russia Against AmericaAsia Times • Asia TimesSecurity,Should Washington be worried? Chinese Defense Minister Says China will ‘Support’ Russia Against AmericaChina’s new defense minister Wei Fenghe has reportedly said during a visit to Moscow that China is ready to support Russia against the US.“I am visiting Russia as a new defense minister of China to show the world a high level of development of our bilateral relations and firm determination of our armed forces to strengthen strategic cooperation,” Wei said at a meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, according to a report by state-run Tass Russian News Agency.Recommended: How Israel Takes U.S. Weapons and Makes Them Better.Recommended: North Korea’s Most Lethal Weapon Isn’t Nukes.Recommended: 5 Worst Guns Ever Made.“Second, to support the Russian side in organizing the Moscow International Security Conference the Chinese side has come to show Americans the close ties between the armed forces of China and Russia, especially in this situation. We’ve come to support you,” he added. “The Chinese side is ready to express with the Russian side our common concerns and common position on important international problems at international venues as well.”Wei is attending the seventh Moscow International Security Conference with a delegation of other high-level Chinese military officials. He emphasized to the Russian press that his trip was coordinated directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping.The annual security conference hosted by Russia’s Defense Ministry is focusing this year on the defeat of terrorists in Syria. The Russian side is said to be sharing its experience on combating ISIL. It’s also providing assessments on future developments in the Middle East, including post-conflict rehabilitation.“Security issues facing Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America will also be in the spotlight of the forum. Special session will address ‘Soft power’ phenomenon as a tool to pursue military-political objectives,” the ministry said in a statement.This first appeared in AsiaTimes here. Image: Creative Commons.