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U.S Aircraft Carrier Heads To Vietnam, With Message For China |The Republican News

By HANNAH BEECH
a large ship in a body of water: The United States aircraft carrier Carl Vinson is scheduled to make a port call on Monday in Danang, Vietnam, which served as a major staging post for the American war effort four decades ago.© United States Navy, via Getty Images The United States aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, is scheduled to make a port call on Monday in Danang, Vietnam, which served as a major staging post for the American war…

 

BANGKOK — For the first time since the end of the Vietnam War, a United States aircraft carrier is scheduled to make a port call in Vietnam on Monday, signalling how China’s rise is bringing together former foes in a significant shift in the region’s geopolitical landscape.

The vessel, the Carl Vinson, will anchor off Danang, the central Vietnam port city that served as a major staging post for the American war effort in the country.

“It’s a pretty big and historic step since a carrier has not been here for 40 years,” said Rear Adm. John V. Fuller, the commander of the Carl Vinson strike group, whose father served in Vietnam.

“We hope to continue the same issue that we’ve always had,” he said, “and that’s to promote security, stability and prosperity in the region.”

The arrival of the Carl Vinson strike group’s 5,500 sailors will mark the first time such a large contingent of American soldiers has landed on Vietnamese soil since the last of the United States troops withdrew in 1975.

During the four-day port call, the aircraft carrier’s personnel will visit an orphanage and a centre for victims of Agent Orange, the defoliant used by the United States military that is blamed, through a toxic contaminant, for poisoning generations of Vietnamese.

Carrier sailors will also play basketball and soccer with Vietnamese counterparts.

For the last month, the Carl Vinson has been deployed in the South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. Six governments have competing claims over various features in the South China Sea. In recent years, Vietnam, in particular, has watched warily as China, through extensive reclamation, has transformed bits of rock and reef it controls into sprawling artificial islands that now double as military bases.

In 2017 alone, China built permanent facilities on reclaimed land that “account for about 72 acres, or 290,000 square meters, of new real estate,” according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative run by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“Hanoi’s agreement to the aircraft carrier visit demonstrates Vietnam’s anxiety about what China will do next in the South China Sea,” said Murray Hiebert, senior associate of the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The U.S. is virtually the last man standing to which Hanoi can look for support in the South China Sea dispute.”

Although the United States is not a claimant in the maritime dispute, the Navy portrays its deployments in the South China Sea as important to ensuring maritime security and nurturing the conditions that have led to Asia’s post-World War II economic expansion.

“It’s a stable environment where you have the ability to actually foment economic growth,” Admiral Fuller said. “I think we’ve helped create the environment that has allowed for the 70 years of growth.”

The admiral F declined to comment, however, on how China’s island-building is changing regional dynamics. Beijing protests whenever the United States conducts freedom of navigation operations in which Navy ships sail close to disputed maritime features controlled by China.

While the American War, as the Vietnamese call the conflict, lingers in American memories as a bloody and ideologically charged confrontation, Vietnamese animosity toward China runs much deeper.

Communist fraternity between Beijing and Hanoi has not erased the fact that the Chinese Empire ruled Vietnam for a millennium. Four years after the last Americans withdrew from Saigon, Vietnam fought a border war with China. Since then, Chinese and Vietnamese troops have skirmished over ownership of islets in the South China Sea.

“No one trusts the Chinese,” said Maj. Gen. Le Van Cuong, the former director of the Institute of Strategic Studies at Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security. “But everyone needs their money.”

In 2016, an international tribunal ruled overwhelmingly in favour of the Philippines in a case that questioned China’s vast claims in the South China Sea.

But that legal victory has proved largely irrelevant to regional geopolitics. President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who took power days before the tribunal ruling, has declined to push Beijing to honour it.

Instead, he has cosied up to China and criticized the United States, a longtime ally. Beijing followed up with vows to invest billions of dollars in the Philippines.

Mr Duterte’s departure from previous Philippine policy leaves Hanoi as the only country with major claims on the South China Sea that continues to denounce Beijing’s muscular actions.

In 2014, Beijing moved an oil-drilling rig into disputed waters not far from Danang. The Vietnamese responded with anti-Chinese protests that culminated in the deaths of two Chinese workers in southern Vietnam.

Yet geopolitics dictates that Vietnam cannot alienate China entirely.

“Vietnam works overtime trying to balance its ties between China and the U.S.,” Mr Hiebert of the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said.

When Beijing again moved the oil rig into contested waters in 2016, Hanoi ensured that there was no repeat of anti-Chinese rioting.

Although Washington has tried to coax Hanoi to expand naval exchanges with the United States, Vietnam has declined in order “to avoid irritating China,” Mr Hiebert said.

Hanoi, which relies on Russia for most of its military equipment, has also refused to increase purchases of American weaponry, even though the United States lifted its embargo on lethal arms sales to Vietnam in 2016.

President Trump’s decision last year to scupper the Trans-Pacific Partnership irked Hanoi, which hoped the American-led trade pact would provide a counterweight to China’s growing economic influence in the region.

And even as the United States and Vietnam have hailed warming relations, a mounting crackdown on dissent by the Vietnamese authorities has curtailed hopes of political change. The tightened grip mirrors a similar clampdown by the Communist Party in China.

There are around 130 political prisoners in Vietnam, including environmental activists, religious advocates and the nation’s most famous female blogger, according to Human Rights Watch.

The State Department issued a statement last month calling on “Vietnam to release all prisoners of conscience immediately and to allow all individuals in Vietnam to express their views freely and assemble peacefully without fear of retribution.”                             (The New York Times)

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Donald Trump: Vladimir Putin ‘Absolutely Did Not Meddle In Our Election’

Jonathan Lemire and Jill Colvin
a group of people standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera: U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk during the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam on Nov. 11, 2017© Jorge Silva—AP U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin talk during the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam on Nov. 11, 2017 (HANOI) — President Donald Trump said Russia’s Vladimir Putin once again vehemently denied interfering in the 2016 U.S. elections during their discussions on the sidelines of an economic summit Saturday. Trump declined to say whether he believed Putin, but made clear he’s not interested in dwelling on the issue.

“He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did,” Trump said of Putin, speaking with reporters aboard Air Force One as he traveled to Hanoi, the second-last stop of his Asia trip.

“Every time he sees me, he said: ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I believe, I really believe that when he tells me that he means it,” Trump said, noting that Putin is “very insulted” by the accusation. Trump called the accusation an “artificial barrier” erected by Democrats — once again casting doubt on the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia did try to interfere in the election to help Trump win.

Trump and Putin did not have a formal meeting while they were in Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, but the two spoke informally several times on the event’s sidelines and reached an agreement on a number of principles for the future of war-torn Syria.

But Trump made clear that the issue of Russian meddling in the election hovers over the leaders’ relationship and said it jeopardized their ability to work together on issues including North Korea’s escalating nuclear program and the deadly conflict in Syria.

“Having a good relationship with Russia’s a great, great thing. And this artificial Democratic hit job gets in the way,” Trump told reporters. “People will die because of it.”

Trump danced around the question of whether he believed Trump’s denials, telling reporters that pressing the issue would have accomplished little.

“He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times,” said Trump.

“Well, look, I can’t stand there and argue with him,” he added later. “I’d rather have him get out of Syria, to be honest with you. I’d rather have him, you know, work with him on the Ukraine than standing and arguing about whether or not – cause that whole thing was set up by the Democrats.”

Slide 3 of 36: US President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L-R front) shake hands during a family photo ceremony at the 2017 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

Trump’s suggestion that he may believe Putin over his own nation’s intelligence community is certain to re-ignite the firestorm over the issue of election meddling. Meanwhile, a special counsel investigation of potential collusion between Moscow and Trump campaign aides so far has resulted in two indictments for financial and other crimes unrelated to the campaign, as well as a guilty plea. Congressional committees have also been interviewing campaign and White House staff.

Earlier Saturday, the Kremlin issued a statement saying the leaders had reached agreement on a number of principles for the future of civil war-torn Syria now that the Islamic State group has largely been pushed out. Among the agreements’ key points, according to the Russians, were an affirmation of de-escalation zones, a system to prevent dangerous incidents between American and Russian forces, and a commitment to a peaceful solution governed by a Geneva peace process.

The Kremlin quickly promoted the agreement as the White House stayed silent. Trump told reporters that the deal was reached “very quickly” and that it would save “tremendous numbers of lives.” And he praised his relationship with Putin the two “seem to have a very good feeling for each other and a good relationship, considering we don’t know each other well.”

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump          © AP Photo/Evan Vucci Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump

Snippets of video of from the summit in the sea-side city of Danang showed Trump and Putin shaking hands and chatting, including during the world leaders’ traditional group photo. The two walked together down a path to the photo site, conversing amiably, with Trump punctuating his thoughts with hand gestures and Putin smiling.

Journalists traveling with Trump were not granted access to any of the APEC events he participated in in the picturesque tropical seaside city Saturday.

White House officials had worked quietly behind the scenes negotiating with the Kremlin on the prospect of a formal meeting. The Russians raised expectations for such a session and Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Asia that it was “expected we’ll meet with Putin” to discuss issues including ramping up pressure on North Korea to halt its nuclear and ballistic weapons program.As speculation built, the two sides tried to craft the framework of a deal on the future of Syria that Trump and Putin could announce in a formal bilateral meeting, according to two administration officials not authorized to speak publicly about private discussions.

Though North Korea and the Ukraine had been discussed, the two sides focused on trying to strike an agreement about a path to resolve Syria’s civil war once the Islamic State group is defeated, according to officials. But the talks stalled and, minutes before Air Force One touched down in Vietnam, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters the meeting was off.

Trump will be attending a state dinner in Hanoi Saturday night. On Sunday, he’ll meet with the country’s president and prime minister before heading to his last stop: The Philippines.   (Time)

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Will Trump Take ‘Brutally Forthright’ Advice From McMaster?

 

By PETER BAKER
Lt. General H.R McMaster, left, the president’s national security adviser, has a reputation for being candid.© Al Drago/The New York Times Lt. General H.R McMaster, left, the president’s national security adviser, has a reputation for being candid.  

WASHINGTON — As commander of an armoured cavalry troop, H. R. McMaster fought in the largest tank battle of the Persian Gulf war, earning a Silver Star in the process. Afterwards, the young captain reflected on how different his experience had been from the accounts he had read about Vietnam.

So when he arrived at the University of North Carolina for graduate studies in fall 1992, questions swirled through his head: How had Vietnam become an American war? Why did American troops die without a clear idea of their mission? “I began to seek answers to those questions,” he later wrote.

The result was a dissertation that turned into a book that would become, for a whole generation of military officers, a must-read autopsy of a war gone wrong. Now, as a three-star general and President Trump’s national security adviser, General McMaster will have the opportunity to put the lessons of that book to the test inside the White House as he serves a mercurial commander in chief with neither political nor military experience.

The book, “Dereliction of Duty,” published in 1997, highlighted the consequences of the military not giving candid advice to a president. General McMaster concluded that during Vietnam, officers on the Joint Chiefs of Staff “failed to confront the president with their objections” to a strategy they thought would fail. Twenty years later, the book serves as a guidepost to how he views his role as the coordinator of the president’s foreign policy team.

“It’s a history, but he obviously draws conclusions about the need for what you might term brutally forthright assessments by the military and indeed also by civilian leaders,” David H. Petraeus, the retired Army general and a patron of General McMaster, said in an interview. “That’s a hugely important takeaway. He has a record of being quite forthright.”

In his first week on the job, General McMaster has already shown an independence familiar to past colleagues. He has begun moving to revise an organizational order issued last month that seemed to downgrade the role of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the director of national intelligence, and he told an all-hands staff meeting that he did not consider the term “radical Islamic terrorism” helpful, even as the president insists on using it.

But those are relatively small matters compared to what may come. Already, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general, has led the president to put aside his desire to reinstitute torture in interrogations of terrorism suspects, at least by the military. Mr Trump places great faith in the generals he has surrounded himself with, but he and General McMaster had never met until a week ago, and the book’s reputation may set a hard-to-meet standard for the general.

“The difficulty is that Trump has a lot of crazy ideas in his head — like we should steal Iraq’s oil or we should kill the relatives of terrorists or we need to ban Muslims from coming here,” said Max Boot, a military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations. “And I’m sure someone like McMaster, like Mattis, understands how crackpot these ideas are.

“So can you say to the president, ‘Hey, Sir, you’re full” of it? Mr Boot continued. “Or do you have to sugarcoat it and handle him with kid gloves? I suspect it’s the latter, and that’s not been H. R.’s approach. We’ll see if Trump is man enough to take it.”

From right, President Lyndon B. Johnson, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, Gen. William Westmoreland and Gen. Earle Wheeler in July 1967, during the Vietnam War. General McMaster’s book became a must-read autopsy of how the war went wrong.© Associated Press From right, President Lyndon B. Johnson, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, Gen. William Westmoreland and Gen. Earle Wheeler in July 1967, during the Vietnam War. General McMaster’s book became a must-read…  

The book is central to General McMaster’s identity and career. As he embarked on graduate studies after the gulf war, he approached his adviser, Richard H. Kohn, a professor who specialised in civil-military relations, and said he wanted to explore the role of the Joint Chiefs during Vietnam.

Using newly declassified records, General McMaster came to a conclusion that upended the conventional wisdom within the military that it had been betrayed by President Lyndon B. Johnson and undercut by antiwar protesters and never given the chance to win the war.

General McMaster concluded that the chiefs had been absorbed by the parochial interests of their different services and had never adequately pressed their opposition to the gradual escalation strategy favoured by Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara.

After finishing the dissertation, he published it as a book while still a major. It quickly became a sensation. Mr Petraeus recalled bringing it to the attention of Gen. Hugh H. Shelton after the general took over as chairman of the Joint Chiefs in 1997. General Shelton made it required reading for all of the chiefs and combatant commanders. “It is a valuable resource for leaders of any organisation,” he later wrote in his memoirs.

Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican who served in the Army, said officers of his age all read it. “We took the analysis to heart,” he said. Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican and a Vietnam veteran, called it “one of the very important books that anyone aspiring to leadership should read.”

Still, while praising General McMaster, Eliot A. Cohen, a professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies and a counsellor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said it may not have made a difference had the Joint Chiefs been more outspoken with Johnson. “It’s not like the president didn’t know they wanted to do more and do it quickly,” he said. “And it’s not like they really had a better idea for winning the war, other than using more violence right away.”

Others said General McMaster’s book had been misread. The shorthand is that generals should have “stood up to Johnson” or even stopped him somehow. Among those who think that is a misinterpretation is Mr Kohn, General McMaster’s graduate adviser. “McMaster’s book neither says nor implies that the chiefs should have obstructed U.S. policy in Vietnam,” other than by candidly presenting their views, he wrote in the Naval War College Review in 2002.

Peter D. Feaver, a specialist in civil-military issues at Duke University and a national security aide to President George W. Bush, even coined the term “McMasterism” to describe the common overstatement of his thesis.

“They read McMaster’s book as supporting this defend-against-the-civilians role, but his actual argument is more subtle,” Mr Feaver said. As a result, he added, the misinterpretation may haunt General McMaster. “McMaster’s challenge is that some may hold him to this inappropriate standard, and then he will be open to even more criticism if he disappoints,” he said.

Mr Cohen agreed that General McMaster would now be held to an impossibly high bar. “This book will hang over him being national security adviser,” he said. “He has to be very aware that he now represents integrity and a forthrightness about speaking truth to power.”

This is not the first administration to find itself absorbed by a book on Vietnam. When President Barack Obama contemplated sending more troops to Afghanistan, he and his staff read “Lessons in Disaster,” by Gordon M. Goldstein, an account of McGeorge Bundy, the national security adviser to Johnson. The book found that Johnson had failed to question the underlying domino theory that the fall of one country to communism would lead to others.

Whether Mr Trump has read or will read “Dereliction of Duty” and, if so, what lessons he will draw remain to be seen. “This will really be a test of Trump as commander in chief,” Mr Goldstein said in an interview. “Can he absorb and benefit from the advice of a strong adviser who probably doesn’t share many of his biases?”

He added: “This is why this movie’s going to be really fascinating to watch. I don’t think we know how that conflict is going to be resolved.” The New York Times

(The New York Times)

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