Crumbling Relations With North Korea

Grind for August 31st, 2018
“I gave my father $100 and said, ‘Buy yourself something that will make your life easier.’ So he went out and bought a present for my mother.”

– Rita Rudner

Crying Wolf

The Headline

Iranian Navy claims it has control of Persian Gulf/ Strait of Hormuz

The Grind

Iranian officials on Monday claimed they had full control of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz – an international waterway south of Iran that serves as a gateway for more than 40% of the world’s sea-traded oil.

The claim follows previous threats from Iran to block all oil moving through the passage if the US halts Iran’s oil sales.

The Trump Administration has been clear with its intentions to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero and to sanction countries that continue to purchase Iranian crude after November 4th.

On Monday night, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made it clear that Iran does not control the strait:

“The Islamic Republic of Iran does not control the Strait of Hormuz,” tweeted Pompeo. “The Strait is an international waterway. The United States will continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waterways.”

The Details

What Iran doesn’t seem to realize is that blocking the Strait of Hormuz is illegal under international law.

As outlined in the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (which Iran signed), all ships have the right to pass through international straits. Countries adjacent to the strait are forbidden from denying passage to vessels or planes traveling through the area.

The United States is not a signatory to the 1982 Convention, thus Iran does not believe US ships are guaranteed right of passage through the strait. The US insists that right of passage through the Strait of Hormuz has become “common law.”

Either way, the intentional blocking of the strait could incite armed hostilities in the Gulf and send oil prices skyrocketing.

Jim Jones, a four-star general who served as National Security Adviser to President Obama, said the Iranian Navy should be destroyed if it tries to block the strait: “I personally would like to see, if they ever did something in the Strait of Hormuz, I would like to see their Navy disappear.”

On Again Off Again

The Headline

United States will resume military exercises with South Korea

The Grind

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday told reporters the US would resume joint military exercises with South Korea.

The exercises were cancelled in June after President Trump met face-to-face with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. And while much fanfare was made over the denuclearization treaty signed at the summit, no real progress has been made.

In fact, Sec. of State Mike Pompeo recently told lawmakers that North Korea was continuing to produce fissile material and has failed to provide an inventory of its nuclear program and facilities.

Last week, Trump asked Pompeo to cancel a planned trip to Pyongyang based on the lack of “sufficient progress” towards denuclearization. Earlier this month, the White House received a letter from North Korean officials complaining about America’s reluctance to advance a peace deal.

The Details

“We took the step to suspend several of the largest exercises as a good faith measure coming out of the Singapore summit,” Mattis told reporters at a rare news conference in the Pentagon briefing room. “We have no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises.”

Mattis also said that any decisions regarding next year’s joint exercises with South Korea would not be made until 2019, and only after consultation with the State Department.

“We suspended several of the largest exercises, but we did not suspend the rest, so there are ongoing exercises all the time on the peninsula,” said Mattis. “The reason you’ve not heard much about them is [so] North Korea could not in any way misinterpret those as somehow breaking faith with the negotiation. What it means in practical terms is that we’re making no changes to the exercise program at this time.”

State-run media in North Korea responded by accusing the US of “double-dealing,” while officials in South Korea have urged the Trump Administration not to give up on its diplomatic efforts with Pyongyang.

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