FROM Gordon G. Chang
Is North Korea backing down? Kim Jung Un now says he won't send four missiles toward the territory of Guam, apparently easing the threat of nuclear war -- at least for the moment. That comes in the aftermath of President Trump's threat to rain "fire and fury" down on North Korea, backed up by US military leaders. The US and South Korea still plan annual military exercises later this month — regarded as hostile by both North Korea and China. We ask former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and others if tough talk and that kind of action are working.
Is North Korea getting ready for nuclear war? Last Friday, North Korea took the rest of the world by surprise by detonating a nuclear explosion more than twice as large as the one it tested just eight months ago. Increased economic sanctions haven't worked. The speed of development and defiance of international retaliation are giving new urgency to old questions: do the US and its allies really know what Kim Jong Un is up to? Is our understanding of this country fundamentally wrong? The consensus has been that his nuclear program was more political than military — designed for internal consumption and international show. We hear some new assessments of what's at risk for the world.
Is China's New 'Charm Offensive' Doomed to Fail? For the second time in 20 years, the leaders of China have just completed a peaceful transition of power. Xi Jinping has become the Communist Party Chairman, Commander in Chief of the Army and—yesterday--President of the Country. All that took place, as usual, behind closed doors. Xi will be running an economic powerhouse with an inferiority complex about its lack of cultural influence. He says, "Just as China needs to learn more about the world, so does the world need to learn more about China." But, can he develop China's "soft-power" in the face of political censorship, limits on foreign tourism and military saber rattling? We hear about the contradictions that make the world's second most powerful nation harder to understand — and more frightening — than it wants to be.
Politics in the Other Superpower While the world waits to see if there will be leadership change in Washington, in China it's guaranteed, but nothing is out in the open. The Communist Party is about to start meeting behind closed doors to endorse the tiny group who will run the number two superpower for the next ten years. The biggest turnover since the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 -- and only its fifth generation of leaders since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949 -- will have worldwide consequences, though nobody knows just what to expect. We hear about murder, corruption, public unrest and the uncertain future of the "economic miracle."
White House budget proposal slashes and burns President Trump's first budget request is considered dead on arrival in Congress — a familiar development in Capitol Hill. We hear what it reveals about the priorities of the new administration. What's likely to die… and what might survive?
The longest US war: Will Trump send more troops to Afghanistan? The Trump White House is divided over the Pentagon's request for more troops in Afghanistan—where the US has been fighting for the past 16 years. Is there a formula -- either for "victory" or a political settlement? Is there an end in sight for America's longest war?