Hong Kong scientist Dr. Li-Meng Yan was stepping into uncharted territory.
Hours before she boarded an April 28 Cathay Pacific flight to the United States, the respected doctor who specialized in virology and immunology at the Hong Kong School of Public Health had plotted her escape, packing her bag and sneaking past the censors and video cameras on campus.
She had her passport and her purse and was about to leave all of her loved ones behind. If she was caught, she knew she could be thrown in jail — or, worse, rendered one of the “disappeared.”
Yan told Fox News in an exclusive interview that she believes the Chinese government knew about the novel coronavirus well before it claimed it did. She says her supervisors, renowned as some of the top experts in the field, also ignored research she was doing at the onset of the pandemic that she believes could have saved lives.
She adds that they likely had an obligation to tell the world, given their status as a World Health Organization reference laboratory specializing in influenza viruses and pandemics, especially as the virus began spreading in the early days of 2020.
Yan, now in hiding, claims the government in the country where she was born is trying to shred her reputation and accuses government goons of choreographing a cyber-attack against her in hopes of keeping her quiet.
Yan believes her life is in danger. She fears she can never go back to her home and lives with the hard truth that she’ll likely never see her friends or family there again.
Still, she says, the risk is worth it.
“The reason I came to the U.S. is because I deliver the message of the truth of COVID,” she told Fox News from an undisclosed location.
She added that if she tried to tell her story in China, she “will be disappeared and killed.”
Yan’s story weaves an extraordinary claim about cover-ups at the highest levels of government and seemingly exposes the obsessive compulsion of President Xi Jinping and his Communist Party to control the coronavirus narrative: what China knew, when it knew it and what edited information it peddled to the rest of the world.
Yan, who says she was one of the first scientists in the world to study the novel coronavirus, was allegedly asked by her supervisor at the University/WHO reference lab, Dr. Leo Poon, in 2019 to look into the odd cluster of SARS-like cases coming out of mainland China at the end of December 2019.
“The China government refused to let overseas experts, including ones in Hong Kong, do research in China,” she said. “So I turned to my friends to get more information.”
Yan had an extensive network of professional contacts in various medical facilities in mainland China, having grown up and completed much of her studies there. She says that is the precise reason she was asked to conduct this kind of research, especially at a time when she says her team knew they weren’t getting the whole truth from the government.
One friend, a scientist at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in China, had first-hand knowledge of the cases and purportedly told Yan on Dec. 31 about human-to-human transmission well before China or the WHO admitted such spread was possible.
She reported some of these early findings back to her boss, Yan said.
“He just nodded,” she recalled, and told her to keep working.
A few days later, on Jan. 9, 2020, the WHO put out a statement: “According to Chinese authorities, the virus in question can cause severe illness in some patients and does not transmit readily between people… There is limited information to determine the overall risk of this reported cluster.”
Yan said she and her colleagues across China discussed the peculiar virus but that she soon noted a sharp shift in tone.
Doctors and researchers who had been openly discussing the virus suddenly clammed up. Those from the city of Wuhan–which later would become the hub of the outbreak–went silent and others were warned not to ask them details.
The doctors said, ominously, “We can’t talk about it, but we need to wear masks,'” Yan said.
When the numbers of human-to-human transmission began to grow exponentially, according to her sources, and Yan started digging for answers.
“There are many, many patients who don’t get treatment on time and diagnosis on time,” Yan said. “Hospital doctors are scared, but they cannot talk. CDC staff are scared.”
She said she reported her findings to her supervisor again on Jan. 16 but that’s when he allegedly told her “to keep silent, and be careful.”
“As he warned me before, ‘Don’t touch the red line,'” Yan said referring to the government. “We will get in trouble and we’ll be disappeared.”
She also claims the co-director of a WHO-affiliated lab, Professor Malik Peiris, knew but didn’t do anything about it.
Peiris also did not respond to requests for comment. The WHO website lists Peiris as an “adviser” on the WHO International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for Pneumonia due to the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV.
Yan was frustrated, but not surprised.
“I already know that would happen because I know the corruption among this kind of international organization like the WHO to China government, and to China Communist Party,” she said. “So basically… I accept it but I don’t want this misleading information to spread to the world.”
The WHO and China have vehemently denied claims of a coronavirus cover-up.
The WHO has also denied that Yan, Poon or Peiris ever worked directly for the organization.
“Professor Malik Peiris is an infectious disease expert who has been on WHO missions and expert groups – as are many people eminent in their fields,” WHO spokeswoman Margaret Ann Harris said in an email. “That does not make him a WHO staff member, nor does he represent WHO.”
Yan says despite any pushback, she has been emboldened by a sense of right and wrong and says she had to speak up despite the personal and professional consequences.
“I know how they treat whistleblowers,” she said.
“I know how they treat whistleblowers.”
Like so many before her, once Yan decided to speak out against China, she discovered her life was apparently in jeopardy, as well as that of those closest to her.
It was a fear directly relayed to her and seemingly confirmed by U.S.-based Hong Kong blogger Lu Deh, she says.
After she shared some of her theories and suspicions with him, he told her she would need to relocate, perhaps to the United States, where she wouldn’t have to constantly look over her shoulder. Only then would she be safe and have a platform to speak, he said.
Yan made the decision to leave, but things got complicated when her husband of six years, who also worked at her lab, discovered the telephone call between his wife and the blogger.
Yan told Fox News she begged her husband to go with her, and says while her spouse, a reputable scientist himself, had initially been supportive of her research, he suddenly had a change of heart.
“He was totally pissed off,” she said. “He blamed me, tried to ruin my confidence… He said they will kill all of us.'”
“He said, ‘they will kill all of us.'”
Shocked and hurt, Yan made the decision to leave without him.
She got her ticket to the U.S. on April 27. She was on a flight the next day.
When she landed at Los Angeles International Airport after her 13-hour journey, she was stopped by customs officials.
Fear gripped her and Yan didn’t know if she would end up in jail or be sent back to China.
“I had to tell them the truth,” she said. “I’m doing the right thing. So I tell them that ‘don’t let me go back to China. I’m the one who came to tell the truth here of COVID-19… And please protect me. If not, the China government will kill me.”
The FBI was allegedly called in to investigate. Yan claims they interviewed her for hours, took her cell phone as evidence and allowed her to continue to her destination.
The FBI told Fox News it could neither confirm nor deny Yan’s claims; however, Fox News was shown an evidence receipt that appeared to confirm an interaction.
As Yan was trying to find her footing in America, she says her friends and family back home were being put through the wringer.
Yan claims the government swarmed her hometown of Qingdao and that agents ripped apart her tiny apartment and questioned her parents. When she contacted her mother and father, they pleaded with her to come home, told her she didn’t know what she was talking about and begged her to give up the fight.
The University of Hong Kong took down her page and apparently revoked access to her online portals and emails, despite the fact that she says she was on an approved annual leave. In a statement to Fox News, a school spokesperson said Yan is not currently an employee.
“Dr Li-Meng Yan is no longer a staff member of the University,” the statement read. “Out of respect for our current and former employees, we don’t disclose personal information about her. Your understanding is appreciated.”
The Chinese Embassy in the United States told Fox News they don’t know who Yan is and maintain China has handled the pandemic heroically.
“We have never heard of this person,” the emailed statement read. “The Chinese government has responded swiftly and effectively to COVID-19 since its outbreak. All its efforts have been clearly documented in the white paper “Fighting COVID-19: China in Action” with full transparency. Facts tell all.”
The WHO has also continued to deny any wrongdoing during the earliest days of the virus. The medical arm of the United Nations has been taken to task recently by scientists challenging its official view of how the virus spreads. The WHO has also altered the coronavirus timeline on its website, now saying it got information about the virus from WHO scientists and not the Beijing authorities–as it has claimed for more than six months.
Korean Air’s U.S. operation received millions in federal small-business loans aimed to soften the blow of Covid-19, federal data shows.
The carrier received $5 million to $10 million in U.S. loans intended to help small businesses keep employees on their payrolls, according to a list of the largest recipients of loans in the Paycheck Protection Program released by the Trump administration on Monday.
The Seoul-based airline, South Korea’s largest, has about 500 employees in the U.S., and a spokeswoman said it applied for the loan because more than half of the carrier’s operation is suspended because of the pandemic.
The funds will be used toward it’s payroll costs of its U.S. staff, including those in its large cargo business and in office jobs like marketing and human resources, the spokeswoman said.
Long-haul international travel has plunged because of Covid-19 as demand dried up and a series of travel restrictions has made trips abroad difficult if not impossible for some potential customers.
Korean Air is a major cargo carrier with routes to or from the Americas comprising about 40% of its cargo sales.
Israeli relations with China have grabbed headlines in recent weeks, but the real litmus test of the United States’ ability to counter Beijing’s growing footprint in the Middle East is likely to be in the Gulf.
In talks last month with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Israeli leaders made clear that while wanting to maintain close relations with China, they would not risk jeopardizing their long-standing ties to the US, their closest ally and supporter of their controversial annexationist policies.
Within days of Pompeo’s visit, Israel awarded a tender for the world’s largest desalination company to an Israeli company rather than a competing Chinese firm.
Similarly, Israeli officials say that Israel is unlikely to buy Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei’s 5G offering because of security considerations of its own. The US has been campaigning against the integration of Huawei components into the networks of its allies.
The real Israeli test may come next year when China takes over the management of Haifa port that is often frequented by ships of the US Sixth Fleet. US officials have suggested that Chinese control of the port could impact the US Navy’s willingness to use Haifa’s facilities.
In contrast to Israel, the US is likely to find the going tougher in persuading Gulf states to limit their engagement with China, including with Huawei, which already has significant operations in the region.
Like Israel, United Arab Emirates officials have sought to convey to the US that they see relations with America as indispensable, even though that has yet to be put to the test when it comes to China.
“The United States is our single most important strategic partnership. Sometimes people, when they think of our relationship with the US, they just look at the political/military angle. But this relationship is really much, much wider,” said UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash.
Such a relationship, he added, is to be found in “IT, in business, investment, in soft power, in the presence of institutions such as NYU Abu Dhabi, in people like me who spent some of the best years of their lives in America.”
Gargash was speaking after Pompeo’s visit to Israel, and after a senior US official issued a direct warning to Gulf states.
“These states have to weigh the value of their partnership with the United States. We want our partner nations to do due diligence,” said US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker.
Describing Chinese aid as “predatory,” Schenker warned that Huawei’s participation in 5G infrastructure in the Gulf would make it difficult for American and Gulf forces to communicate. Huawei has signed agreements with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
“We’re not forcing countries to choose between the United States and the PRC,” Schenker said, referring to the People’s Republic of China. “Countries can and should maintain healthy relationships with both, but we want to highlight the costs” that come with certain engagements with China.
Earlier, an unidentified senior US official warned that Gulf states “risk rupturing the long-term strategic relationship they have with the US.”
The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet operates out of Bahrain, while Qatar hosts the forward headquarters of the US military’s Central Command (CENTCOM).
A different agenda
In a message to Israel that was also intended for the Gulf, US Ambassador David Friedman laid out US concerns.
“For two countries as close to each other as Israel and the US, when they cooperate and exchange intelligence and other secrets for their mutual protection on such a robust level, both countries need to be really careful about exposing that level of cooperation to a foreign power that may have a different agenda,” he said.
Friedman asserted that China uses investments and infrastructure projects to “infiltrate” countries. “These [Chinese] companies have the ability to flick various switches and gain access to the most sensitive communications.”
The US Embassy in Abu Dhabi, in a shot across the Gulf’s bow, last month rejected a UAE offer to donate hundreds of coronavirus tests for screening of its staff.
The snub also was designed to put a dent in China’s health silk road diplomacy centered on its experience with the pandemic and ability to manufacture personal protective and medical equipment.
A US official said the tests were rejected because they were either Chinese-made or involved BGI, a Chinese genomics company active in the Gulf, which raised concerns about patient privacy.
The US softened the blow when the prestigious Ohio-based Cleveland Clinic sent 40 nurses and doctors to its Abu Dhabi subsidiary. The Abu Dhabi facility was tasked with treating the UAE’s most severe cases of coronavirus.
The seemingly escalating US effort to box in China is hampered by the fact that no US company produces a 5G alternative.
“5G is the future. To reconsider Huawei, the US has to offer an alternative. So far, it hasn’t done so,” a Gulf official who wishes to remain anonymous told Inside Arabia, where this article was originally published.
The same dilemma applies to the US’ desire to reduce its commitments in the Middle East. In its global rivalry with China, the US cannot afford to create the kind of void that China and Russia would not be able or willing to fill in the short-term.
“It’s a toss-up,” said a Gulf analyst who requested anonymity. “The US can’t compete on 5G and China and Russia can’t compete on security. This is a situation and a set of relationships that requires careful management.
“The problem is that big power leaders show little inclination to find a middle ground.” That, the analyst said, leaves Gulf states grappling for ways to hedge their bets.
The Eiffel Tower reopened to visitors Thursday morning after having been shut down for more than three months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was the Paris landmark’s longest closure since World War II.
The reopening is a dramatic sign of people reclaiming public spaces in France following more than 100 days of restrictions. But the tower’s highest point is still not open – and for now, visitors will need to take the stairs.
The stairs-only rule is one of several restrictions at the site, which draws millions of tourists during a normal year. Face masks are compulsory for all visitors over the age of 11, and physical distancing markers are in place.
To keep people from crossing paths on the stairs, visitors will ascend on the Eiffel Tower’s east pillar and descend on the west pillar, according to the Eiffel Tower website.
The reopening took place on a sunny and clear morning, promising wide views of the city. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo hailed the return of visitors — and as the first guests prepared to make their way up, a band of drummers performed in the plaza at the tower’s base.
Elevator service inside the monument is slated to begin again on July 1. For those who can’t wait, a ticket to walk up to the Eiffel Tower’s second floor – the wider area that cuts off just as the tower narrows toward its spire – costs 10.40 euros (about $11.65).
Tickets are being sold online in 30-minute increments. Shortly after noon local time Thursday, spots were still open through the afternoon, though the evening tickets had all been claimed, presumably by people eager to see how the City of Light comes to life in the night, even during a pandemic.
A French government official declared the coronavirus to be “under control” in early June. Days later, France joined the rest of the European Union in lifting many border restrictions within the bloc – part of a plan to salvage part of the summer tourism season.
There are signs that the virus has remained under control. France’s positive test rate for the coronavirus is 1.5%, according to the most recent data from the national public health agency. Only two of its 104 departments are considered to be in a highly vulnerable situation – and those are on islands in the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean.
France has reported 161,348 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 29,731 deaths, according to government data.
Exiled Chinese dissident Guo Wengui alleged this weekend the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) “allocates $2 billion a year” to pay off the Vatican for its silence concerning Chinese atrocities.
In a June 20th interview on The War Room, Mr. Guo said the CCP earmarks massive sums each year to win the allegiance of foreign countries including the Vatican, Italy, and Australia. Among them, the Vatican receives up to 2 billion dollars from the Chinese Communist Party every year, he said.
“The Chinese Communist Party allocates 2 billion US dollars each year” to gain influence over the Vatican’s internal policy making and to pay for its silence on the CCP’s repression of religious freedom, said the controversial billionaire whistleblower.
Guo has previously stated that China has drafted a complete strategy for world domination known by the initials “BGY,” which stands for Blue (control the Internet), Gold (buy influence with money), and Yellow (seduce key people with sex).
Since 2014, the CCP has formulated internal policies to invest a certain percentage of trade with foreign countries in the BGY program to erode the local state system, Guo said Saturday, and the current BGY quota for the United States is 5%.
According to data from the U.S. Trade Office, the total trade volume between China and the U.S. in 2018 was $7.37 trillion. If calculated according to 5%, the amount used for BGY in the United States would then be about $36.8 billion, Guo said.
Guo also offered a similar calculation for Australia.
“The trade volume between the CCP and Australia is about US $200 billion,” he said. “Previously, 1 percent was used for BGY, but it rose to 5 percent. That is, $10 billion was used for BGY.”
According to Guo, these huge amounts of BGY funds are employed for a variety of uses, including bribing local officials, regulating media messaging, and controlling local resources.
A 2019 report released by the International Cyber Policy Centre at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute revealed hundreds of Twitter accounts linked to the state-backed effort to denigrate pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong had formerly been used to target critics of the Chinese government, principally Guo Wengui.
The accounts were part of a coordinated information campaign operating for more than two years to target Mr. Guo as well as jailed publisher Gui Minhai.
“Those early efforts are an attempt to shape sentiment and the international narrative around these prominent critics of the Chinese government and to shape them in such a way as to influence the Chinese diaspora’s perception of these individuals,” said Jake Wallis, one of the report’s chief authors.
For its part, the Vatican has been carrying on a charm offensive with the CCP for several years, and in September 2018 signed an important secret accord with Beijing concerning the appointment of Catholic bishops in China.
According to veteran Vatican journalist John L. Allen, Jr., the Vatican has spared no effort in its attempt to woo Beijing into full diplomatic relations, a key priority of the Francis papacy.
The Vatican is “covetous of a relationship with China, and often apparently willing to stifle objections and give away a great deal” in order to move toward that goal, Allen wrote last month.
In short, “the Vatican is moving full-steam ahead in its courtship of Beijing, with the ultimate prize remaining full diplomatic relations, a secure legal standing for the church, and partnerships on the global stage,” Allen wrote.
The Vatican’s 2018 overture to Beijing was sweetened by the May 2020 launch of a new Chinese edition of the Jesuit-edited journal Civiltà Cattolica, which enjoys a semi-official Vatican status, Allen noted.
La Civiltà Cattolica said the new edition is meant “as a gesture of friendship, given the increasingly important role that the Chinese language plays in the contemporary world within the global context.”
Mr. Allen’s appraisal of the Vatican’s courtship of China squares with what other Vatican-watchers have been observing as well.
Francis dreams of being the pope who will establish diplomatic relations with Beijing, and to achieve this goal he is willing to make “concessions,” declared Vatican analyst Alban Mikozy on French television last December.
“Pope Francis is a prudent man,” Mikozy said. “He pursues a dream: to be the sovereign pontiff who will restore relations between China and the Vatican.”
“In order to do this, he is ready to make a few concessions: say nothing about Hong Kong, do not get too excited when the Chinese leader talks about rewriting the Bible,” he added, in reference to announcements that the CCP intends to retranslate the Bible and other sacred texts to make them conform to socialist ideology.
Because of this overarching desire, Mikozy said, the pope is willing to turn a blind eye to the CCP’s violations of religious liberty and other human rights issues.
Last November, for instance, during an in-flight press conference during his return flight from Asia, the pope reiterated his desire to visit China, while dodging questions about the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests.
“I would like to go to Beijing,” Francis said. “I love China.”
According to Mikozy, the pope’s silence on Hong Kong suggests that he will go to great lengths not to offend the CCP.
The pope has lavished fulsome praise on China, insisting that China’s communist government protects religious freedom and that “churches are full.”
Meanwhile, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the Argentinian Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, has held up communist China as the best model for living out Catholic social teaching today.
As businesses reopen across the U.S. after coronavirus shutdowns, many are requiring customers and workers to sign forms saying they won’t sue if they catch COVID-19.
Businesses fear they could be the target of litigation even if they adhere to safety precautions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health officials. But workers’ rights groups say the forms force employees to sign away their rights should they get sick.
The liability waivers, similar to what President Donald Trump’s campaign is requiring for people to attend a Saturday rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, would protect businesses in states that don’t have liability limits or immunity from coronavirus-related lawsuits.
So far, at least six states — Utah, North Carolina, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Alabama — have such limits through legislation or executive orders, and others are considering them. Business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are lobbying for national liability protections.
The novel coronavirus has sickened more than 2 million people in the U.S. and killed more than 115,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.
At Salon Medusa in West Hartford, Connecticut, hair stylist Lena Whelan says they’re using only two of six styling stations since reopening June 1. Customers have to wait outside, they have to wear masks, and all stations and tools are disinfected between clients.
Despite all those safety measures, customers must sign a form saying they won’t sue if they get infected with the novel coronavirus. The form, which also asks patrons if they or any family members have virus symptoms, gives the salon extra legal protection, Whelan said.
Critics argue that liability waivers open the door for corporations to skirt protocols like erecting Plexiglas barriers, providing face masks and other protective equipment, and keeping people the proper distance apart without suffering any repercussions.
The waivers are particularly onerous for workers who may feel compelled to sign them in order to keep their jobs, unlike customers who at least have a choice to walk away.
“It’s a terrible choice for an employee,” said Hugh Baran, an attorney with the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group. “Do you sign this and potentially give up your legal recourse or do you refuse and feel like you are going to lose your job?”
Worse yet, in many states, if workers refuse to sign the waivers and return to work, they risk losing unemployment benefits, Baran said. Also, immunity legislation and liability waivers disproportionately affect black and Latino workers, many of whom have jobs that can’t be done remotely, he said.
Lawyers say many business clients are asking about the waivers. Whether they can be enforced varies by state and is open to debate. Owners are wise to take a “better safe than sorry” approach, said John Wolohan, a sports law professor at Syracuse University.
“It’s hard for me to believe people don’t understand the danger of going out in public and interacting. But when somebody gets sick, I’m sure they’re going to claim the business didn’t protect them the way they should have. By having a waiver, the business will better withstand the lawsuit,” Wolohan said.
In 45 states and the District of Columbia, courts will generally enforce voluntary waivers, according to “Law for Recreation and Sport Managers,” a book Wolohan co-wrote with Doyice Cotten. Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Virginia and Wisconsin offer consumers the best chance to challenge liability waivers.
But Baran says a lot depends on how state contract laws have been interpreted by the courts. Many states, he said, have laws on the books saying that businesses have a general duty to maintain healthy and safe working conditions. In some instances, however, courts have determined that employees can sign away those rights, he said.
“This is a new situation,” Baran said of the liability forms related to the coronavirus. “It’s hard to know how state courts would view such waivers.”
Data on just how many businesses require liability waivers of employees or customers is difficult to find. Lawyers say the forms are showing up at small businesses such as hair salons and gyms where it’s hard to maintain social distancing. But it’s also showing up at the New York Stock Exchange, where Jonathan Corpina, senior managing partner with Meridian Equity Partners Inc., said Monday he was required to sign a waiver in order to enter the trading floor.
Cheryl Falvey, a partner at the Crowell and Moring law firm in Washington, D.C., and a former top lawyer at the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission, said she does not think most employers would try to get their workforce to sign them.
Falvey also noted there are circumstances that waivers would not cover, including if someone who signs a waiver gets infected and then spreads the disease to family members or neighbors.
“I don’t think these waivers would cover that,” Falvey said. The wife of someone infected might argue, “I didn’t sign that waiver. You let him in and you didn’t protect him,” she said.
Harold Kim, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, said federal legislation would be better for businesses rather than a patchwork of conflicting state laws. The legislation sought by the chamber would be temporary and grant protections only if businesses followed CDC and state guidelines on the virus, he said. It would not give businesses immunity if they were grossly negligent.
“You don’t get those protections if you don’t follow that guidance,” he said.
Employees who get sick on the job might not be able to sue their employers, but would have access to workers’ compensation to cover lost wages and medical care, legal experts said. Proposed federal legislation wouldn’t affect workers’ compensation programs, which most states have, Kim said.
Through Monday, there were 2,741 lawsuits filed in the U.S. over COVID-19 infections, according to a complaint tracker maintained by the Hunton Andrews Kurth law firm. Many of the cases were over government shutdown orders and which businesses were deemed essential. Only seven came from consumers and 49 were filed by employees over exposure to the virus or other related injuries. Kim said federal legislation would prevent a big surge in litigation.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un hosted a meeting to discuss the country’s nuclear capabilities, state media said on Sunday, marking his first appearance in three weeks after a previous absence sparked global speculation about his health.
Ruling Workers’ Party officials wore face masks to greet Kim as he entered the meeting of the party’s powerful Central Military Commission, state television showed, but no one including Kim was seen wearing a mask during the meeting.
Amid stalled denuclearization talks with the United States, the meeting discussed measures to bolster North Korea’s armed forces and “reliably contain the persistent big or small military threats from the hostile forces,” state news agency KCNA said.
The meeting discussed “increasing the nuclear war deterrence of the country and putting the strategic armed forces on a high alert operation,” adopting “crucial measures for considerably increasing the firepower strike ability of the artillery pieces,” it said.
Kim has made an unusually small number of outings in the past two months, with his absence from a key anniversary prompting speculation about his condition, as Pyongyang has stepped up measures against the COVID-19 pandemic.
North Korea says it has no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, but South Korea’s intelligence agency has said it cannot rule out that the North has had an outbreak. [L4N2CO0OL]
U.S.-led negotiations aimed at dismantling North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes have made little progress since late last year, especially after a global battle on the virus began.
The Chinese government’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, expressed hope on Sunday that the United States and North Korea could resume meaningful dialogue as soon as possible, “and not squander away the hard-earned results of (previous) engagement.”
North Korea’s pledge to boost its nuclear capabilities coincides with news reports that the United States might conduct its first full-fledged nuclear test since 1992, noted Leif-Eric Easley, who teaches international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.
“The intention in Washington for pondering such a move may be to pressure Russia and China to improve arms-control commitments and enforcement,” Easley said. “But not only might this tack encourage more nuclear risk-taking by those countries, it could provide Pyongyang an excuse for its next provocation.”
What do great nations do? They bring out the best in others—not altruistically, but synergistically, through the pursuit of their own strategic interests. That is precisely the direction that President Trump is headed with regards to Greenland when he authorized a $12 million investment in the world’s largest island to develop a “sustainable” economy.”
Just eight months ago, all the usual media personalities derided and mocked the President when the press leaked his ambitions to purchase Greenland. “We could move one of the Red Sox spring training camps there,” Joe Scarborough said on his MSNBC morning show, “and, I don’t know, maybe, I don’t know, maybe move a AAA team, there’s so many opportunities there.”
No one is laughing now—especially since the investment has prompted Greenland’s prime minister, Kim Kielsen, to say the $12 million gift “confirms that our work on building a constructive relationship with the United States is fruitful.”
President Trump’s move to invest $12 million in Greenland’s economy is a substantial step to securing America’s strategic interests on the mineral-rich island. But, in order to follow through, the United States must redirect its resources away from unstrategic, endless wars, and focus on President Trump’s America-first vision for U.S. foreign ambitions.
GREENLAND’S STRATEGIC VALUE
The strategic importance of Greenland, a territory of the Kingdom of Denmark, has been well understood for over 100 years. The U.S., under President Harry S. Truman, even offered $100 million for the land in 1946.
With the recent trend of ice sheets melting in Greenland, there are the makings of lucrative mining opportunities. Beneath the continental glacier of ice is soil that holds the second-largest deposit of rare-earth metals and oxides, vital for production of solar power, wind turbines, and electric cars. There is also what’s believed to be the sixth-largest deposit of uranium in the world.
Greenland is 836,300 square miles. Its acquisition would be a historical event unlike anything witnessed since our country’s third president Thomas Jefferson completed the Louisiana Purchase.
Rare-earth minerals are necessary components of more than 200 products across a wide range of applications, especially high-tech consumer products, such as cell phones, computer hard drives, electric and hybrid vehicles, and flat-screen monitors and televisions. In addition to their commercial value, they hold significant defense applications, such as guidance systems, lasers, radar, and sonar systems.
President Trump is also keenly aware that the potential deal could also assist Denmark, a U.S. ally and NATO member. Governing Greenland is “hurting Denmark very badly because they’re losing almost $700m a year carrying it. So they carry it at a great loss and strategically for the United States it would be very nice and we’re a big ally of Denmark, we protect Denmark and we help Denmark and we will,” the President said last August.
Developing and stimulating the natural resource economy in Greenland would also improve the lives of the roughly 60,000 residents there, especially given that 16.2% of them who live below the poverty line. Liberated from a restrictive, socialist state like Denmark, and incorporated into the U.S. federal system, their local control would increase substantially while they flourished under new trade and security benefits.
It’s important to note that not securing our interests in the region comes at grave a cost—and not just to our economic security. Greenland sits in the Arctic Circle, a region with land held by eight countries (including Russia). Professor Walter Berbrick, founding director of the U.S. Naval War College’s Arctic Studies Group, called Greenland “the most important strategic location in the Arctic and perhaps the world.”
Just ask Russia and China, which are making their own strides there—threatening America’s position in the Arctic. In 2013, China became an observer state of the Arctic Council, which is made up of the U.S., Canada, Russia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland, and governs development issues and territorial rights as the polar ice recedes. Beijing’s claim to being a “near-Arctic” state was disputed by state officials, who have “found this disconcerting because of the PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] behavior outside the Arctic; it often disregards international norms, as it has in the South China Sea.”
Greenland is 836,300 square miles. Its acquisition would be a historical event unlike anything witnessed since our country’s third president Thomas Jefferson completed the Louisiana Purchase. The U.S. hasn’t had such a diplomatic presence there since 1953—although it has maintained its northernmost military base in northeast Greenland for the last 77 years.
President Trump, as a former real estate tycoon, understands growth—winning as survival. What made America great was this kind of attitude toward expansion, its “manifest destiny” as it’s been called. The President could revive that spirit by expanding our sphere of influence to Greenland. It wouldn’t require a cultural revolution or regime change—just the economic and military power of the U.S. to open and secure access for more freedom in that stagnant Arctic land.
A NEW ERA IN FOREIGN POLICY
The general challenge of the Trump Administration’s foreign policy ambitions has been to resist getting bogged down in foreign interventions, like his predecessors, while still exerting American predominance and interests around the world. He has rightfully rejected the neoconservative and Clintonian (neoliberal) drive of expansionism through regime change wars.
The fatal mistake would be if Trump assumed that he, or any president, could juggle an international race to Greenland’s resources and endless interventionist wars at the same time.
It’s important to realize that an America-first foreign strategy will end up up a tragic waste of time unless President Trump puts a stop to never-ending military missions like the ones in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. As President Trump is well aware, over $6.5 trillion has been spent on the war on terror so far. The President must realize what else could’ve been accomplished with the taxpayers’ money.
In addition to the more well-known war theaters, the United States currently has CIA or military boots on the ground in Chad, Libya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, and Tunisia. The strategic gains from these conflicts are marginal given the cost in blood and treasure being bogged down in these “hell holes.”
The fatal mistake would be if Trump assumed that he, or any president, could juggle an international race to Greenland’s resources and endless interventionist wars at the same time.
Wall Street estimates the price of the island to be $533 billion, while the Washington Post puts the estimate as high as $1.7 trillion. Not only would those funds have to be secured, but to make military use of the island would mean a shift in deployments, adding additional costs for new military infrastructure.
Fortunately for Trump, he’s got the American people on his side, especially against the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden when it comes to foreign policy. But the President shouldn’t take that vote for granted.
Barely a quarter of Americans agreed that military interventions make America safer in a poll conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in September 2019. In a more recent poll, conducted by Concerned Veterans for America, 73% of veterans said they would support removing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan; 71% of veterans said the same thing about Iraq. Relatives of veterans closely mirrored those same polling patterns.
The same poll by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, shows that Americans increasingly support the U.S. taking a more active role in global affairs—but in a way that doesn’t embroil us in perpetual war.
The fact is that President Trump’s foreign policy efforts have not been an unqualified success thus far. The Afghanistan war lingers on, despite attempted peace talks with the Taliban, and there are U.S. troops in Syria—the bulk of whom are North and South Carolina national guardsmen—guarding oil fields for some unclear reason. President Trump isn’t blinded by anti-interventionist ideology—meaning the threat of war looms.
In order to deliver his 2016 campaign promises, and boost optimism towards our global standing, President Trump should continue to redirect our foreing policy efforts to projects like the Greenland purchase—projects that signal a positive, substantial shift in U.S. foreign policy.
A ban on the sale of menthol flavoured cigarettes, menthol rolling tobacco, and capsule cigarettes came into force as of Wednesday in the UK, obeying a European Union directive, which critics fear is the first step towards a full “prohibition” on tobacco.
On Wednesday, the flavoured cigarettes were banned as a part of the EU Tobacco Product Directive that was transposed into UK law despite the nation leaving the bloc earlier this year. The new law is expected to extend beyond the Brexit transition period, which is set to end on December 31st, 2020.
The nanny state style regulations were supposedly set in place to reduce the number of smokers as well as deter younger people from picking up the habit. European bureaucrats argued that menthol is catered towards novice smokers as a result of its cooling effect, according to The Sun.
The move to ban tobacco products is just the latest restriction to be placed on the industry in Britain. Cigarette companies were previously forced — again by EU diktat — to remove all branding from their products, which was replaced with ominous government health warnings from the National Health Service (NHS), the country’s socialised health care provider.
British shop keepers are also mandated by the government to keep cigarettes hidden from the view of their patrons, and are banned from selling smaller sized packets.
To the director of the smokers’ group Forest, Simon Clark, Brexit is a chance for the United Kingdom to reclaim personal liberties and its ability to craft its own laws.
“Inside or outside the EU, Britain is sleepwalking to prohibition. Policies such as the display ban and plain packaging have tried to denormalise tobacco but the product has always been available to adults who choose to smoke,” Mr Clark wrote.
“Brexit is an opportunity to bring power back to the people. Let’s not waste it by imposing further lifestyle regulations on a population tired of being told what to do,” he added.
The ban will come as a shock to many British smokers, as a recent poll conducted by Populus found that 39 per cent of the country’s 7.4 million smokers were unaware the ban on menthol tobacco products was coming at all.
The ban comes just ahead of the ‘World No Tobacco Day’ on May 31st, a World Health Organization initiative.