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Cause for Alarm? China Put in Charge of Iranian Nuclear Site

China and Iran have signed a deal to modify an integral part of the latter’s nuclear program at the Arak heavy water nuclear site. The news comes just one day after the Trump administration certified that Iran has committed to its responsibilities under the nuclear agreement signed by the former Obama administration and the Iranian regime in 2015. On the same day that President Trump verified Iran’s compliance in the agreement, the Iranian Supreme Leader declared the United States an “enemy” nation.

A heavy water plant is an essential element in producing the material needed to developing a nuclear weapons program. Iran insists that the Arak reactor is purposed with producing “isotopes for cancer and other medical treatments.” However, heavy water reactors are needed to cool down reactors that churn out plutonium, which can be used to create a nuclear bomb.

The Arak plant was uncovered thanks to 2002 satellite images from the Institute for Science and International Security.

As part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed to by Iran and world powers, Iran is supposed to modify the heavy water reactor so it could not produce weapons-grade plutonium.

Whether the United States can trust China to lead the project is a matter of concern. Most geopolitical observer recognize that China views Iran as an ally and the United States as an adversary.

Moreover, China has previously helped supply the Iranian regime with nuclear material and advanced missile technology that would have been otherwise likely impossible to produce internally. Since the early 80s, the Chinese government has clandestinely and overtly helped the Mullahs develop their nuclear program.

International agencies such as the United Nations have been tasked with verifying compliance. No American inspectors are allowed on any of the Iranian nuclear sites, thanks to terms agreed to by the Obama administration. Therefore, whether or not Iran is cheating on the nuke deal is left completely to foreign bodies.

Iran has already breached the material limits used by the nuclear reactor that were imposed under the JCPOA. The IAEA, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, said Tehran exceeded the limit twice last year.

Beijing is looking forward to beginning the project. “The signing of this contract will create good conditions for substantively starting the redesign project,” said China Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang. (For more from the author of “Cause for Alarm? China Put in Charge of Iranian Nuclear Site” please click HERE)

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ISIS Starves Civilians to Force Them Into Fighting for the Caliphate

The Islamic State is withholding food and water from citizens in Mosul in an effort to force them into joining the terrorist organization, according to an Iraqi non-profit.

The beleaguered terrorist organization has suffered personnel and territory losses since the U.S.-backed Iraqi Security Forces began operations to retake Mosul in October. Combat operations in Mosul have led to intense, street-to-street fighting in the city’s western area. ISIS is now forcibly conscripting the thousands of locals who remain by withholding food and water, according to a report by the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights.

“An infant and its sister [have] died last week in Uruba neighborhood due to lack of food,” the report stated. “Now their mother is facing the same fate as she is in a very bad health condition.”

Some local civilians have given into ISIS to survive.

A single hospital in Mosul has seen hundreds of cases of malnourished and dehydrated people, mostly children, a representative told the Observatory. (Read more from “ISIS Starves Civilians to Force Them Into Fighting for the Caliphate” HERE)

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Trump Lets Iran off the Hook … For Now

By certifying Tehran’s compliance in the Iran nuclear deal for at least the next 90 days, President Trump is sending mixed messages about an agreement he famously called the “worst deal ever.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., Tuesday confirming that the Trump administration will continue to abide by the agreement made by the Obama administration with the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror.

“The U.S. Department of State certified to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan today that Iran is compliant through April 18th with its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” the letter read.

Tillerson also “raised concerns about Iran’s role as a state sponsor of terrorism and alerted Congress to an effort directed by the President to evaluate whether continuing to lift sanctions would be in U.S. national security interests,” a press statement said.

Additionally, President Trump has directed the National Security Council to review whether the deal is “vital to the national security interests of the United States.”

Dealing with Iran comes with its downsides. The country remains a vital threat to global security.

Iran’s worldwide terror scheme involves arming and support of Palestinian terrorist outfits such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas. The regime also utilizes its proxy terror group Hezbollah to disrupt order and kill innocents in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon. Hezbollah also participates in the global drug trade in order to boost relationships with western drug cartels and help fund the caliphatist endeavors of Tehran. Iran also funds and arms countless militias and jihadist outfits in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere.

Additionally, the Institute for Science and International Security, which has been very skeptical about the Iran deal, has urged caution on moving forward with judgement on the president’s decision. They say that certification should be seen as a “tactical decision” to buy more time for a further review.

During his campaign for the presidency, Trump described the deal as the “worst deal ever negotiated.” He has used strong language in speaking out against the deal.

The president has the authority to unilaterally end the Iran deal, but he has instead chosen to give the Mullahs 90 more days. The Iran deal is not legally binding and can be dismissed immediately. Why the president has so radically changed from his initial anti-Iran deal platform remains a mystery unsolved, as the president has consistently spoken out publicly against the deal.

It remains unclear how the Trump administration will be able to wholly certify Iran’s compliance. A similar process failed to reveal that Syria kept stockpiles of chemical weapons. Much of the review process relies upon outside agencies, such as the United Nations and Russia, to confirm compliance. (For more from the author of “Trump Lets Iran off the Hook … For Now” please click HERE)

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Photo of Soldier Raising Cross on Rubble of Mt. Sinjar Church Easter Sunday Goes Viral

Once Iraq’s largest Christian city, Sinjar is perhaps best known as the place where ISIS massacred more than 5,000 Yazidi men and captured 7,000 women for sex slaves in November, 2014. ISIS destroyed churches, buildings and homes. The city was left as a wasteland. But on Easter Sunday, one soldier put Sinjar back on the map with a simple act that went viral on Facebook.

An anonymous soldier carried a wooden cross to the top of what once was Mt. Sinjar Church. He lifted it into place on top of the rubble. His act of faith was captured by a camera and posted on Facebook by Hazem Farraj, a Palestinian-American Christian televangelist. Above the photos, Farraj wrote:

With a rifle on his shoulder, tears in his eyes, he places the cross on the top of the now ISIS destroyed Mt Sinjar Church. What does resurrection look like? This. Happy Easter everybody. #Resurrection #Jesus

The images were re-posted by actor James Woods and other media personalities. As of Wednesday, the post has over 24,000 likes and almost 14,000 retweets.

(For more from the author of “Photo of Soldier Raising Cross on Rubble of Mt. Sinjar Church Easter Sunday Goes Viral” please click HERE)

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What next with North Korea?

There was a moment at Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s White House briefing Monday that was significant. Asked by a reporter about North Korea’s missile launch last weekend, Spicer said the administration was aware of the launch and that “it failed.” End of story. Next question, please.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former Conservative foreign secretary in Britain, might provide an explanation for Spicer’s tight-lipped response. Rifkind told the BBC Sunday that “…there is a very strong belief that the U.S. — through cyber methods — has been successful on several occasions in interrupting these sorts of tests and making them fail.”

At present, there are no direct links to a cyber attack on North Korea from the U.S., but that hasn’t stopped media outlets from reporting the possibility of one.

American Actions

Last month, the U.S. began sending the first elements of its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system to South Korea, though China opposed the move. When it becomes operational will it, along with cyber attacks, be enough to deter North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un from conducting new missile tests capable of hitting the U.S. with a nuclear warhead, which he has repeatedly threatened to do? Kim has said he will conduct missile tests “weekly” in response to U.S. threats.

On a recent visit to South Korea, Vice President Mike Pence vowed that “the era of strategic patience is over,” a strategy adopted by the Obama administration to explain its long-term view on global conflict resolution. Pence added, “North Korea would do well not to test (President Trump’s) resolve — or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region.”

How much of this is bluster on both sides no one can say for sure. After President Trump’s meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping, there is some optimism that China might be able to exert sufficient pressure on its unpredictable ally to pull back from a direct confrontation with the U.S. Of greatest concern for the Trump administration, in addition to South Korean civilians who would likely suffer massive casualties should there be a North Korean invasion, are the more than 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea. Kim has threatened to attack them and flood South Korea with his ground forces.

What’s the Goal?

What is our goal with North Korea? Is it regime change? If so, who and what would follow if Kim is ousted? Kim, his father and grandfather have established such an atmosphere of complete control and cult-like obedience with North Koreans who have been cut off from all outside information that it is hard to predict how the people would react. It’s a good bet political prisoners in North Korea’s prison camps would be overjoyed if the regime fell and they were set free.

Humanrights.gov estimates between “80,000 and 120,000 political prisoners and family members are detained in these camps, where starvation, forced labor, executions, torture, rape, forced abortion and infanticide are commonplace.”

Those who wish to hold off on further challenges to North Korea must ask themselves a question. Given the erratic behavior of Kim Jong-Un and his bellicose promises to strike the U.S. with a nuclear missile, is it better to take him seriously and stop him now, or wait until he has the capability to carry out his threat?

Last week, Hawaii’s House public safety committee passed a resolution calling for the state’s defense agency to repair hundreds of fallout shelters that have not been updated since the 1980s and restock them with medical supplies, food and water.

We haven’t yet reached the tension level of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which put the United States in direct confrontation with the Soviet Union and brought the world to the brink of nuclear war, but the current tension between the U.S. and North Korea could quickly spiral downward.

Will the “peace through strength” doctrine of the Reagan administration, which suggested that military power could help preserve peace, work today? During the Reagan years, Soviet leaders were not unstable, as Kim Jong-Un appears to be, and a nuclear confrontation was avoided. Perhaps a demonstration of what the U.S can do with cyber warfare, a missile defense system and help from China will be enough.

One can only hope. (For more from the author of “What next with North Korea?” please click HERE)

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Syrian Christians Need Guns

As Stream readers know, I and my European organization lobby a lot for the Christians in Syria and Iraq. On one occasion I was working the corridors of the European Parliament (EP) for this cause, and had an ugly encounter. I met people who claimed to represent Syria’s Christians. I quickly realized who they really were: agents of the brutal Assad government.

They thought I was ignorant. So they tried to convince me that another Syrian Christian who had just addressed an EP conference was a paid stooge of Kurdish militias. They told me that the Federation of Northern Syria was mere propaganda for Kurdish “terrorists.” They even claimed that the Christian military group cooperating with Kurds and Arabs, the Syriac Military Council, did not exist.

What these people didn’t know was that the man they were maligning was a friend of mine. Nor that I had been to visit the headquarters of the Syriac Military Council, and met with the brave Syrian Christians who are fighting for their freedom. I know the Kurdish leaders who are fighting alongside Christians and other minority groups as comrades in arms.

I confronted these Assad loyalists with all these facts. The conversation grew awkward. Then I asked them if they were really working for Assad’s government. They left, and I never spotted them again in the European Parliament.

Meeting those people so willing to lie about their own country pointed up a tragic fact: The Assad regime has a very strong hold over thousands of helpless Christians in Syria. Assad presents himself as their protector, and many in the West accept this at face value. There’s a good reason for that: The strongest groups of anti-Assad rebels are radical Islamists tied to al Qaeda. These are the main groups backed by Turkey and Saudi Arabia. And where they have conquered Christian towns, they have ethnically cleansed them, just as ISIS would.

If the U.S. helps these groups to replace Assad — the way the U.S. helped radical Islamists come to power in Iraq — the Christians of Syria would be finished. (Most of Iraq’s 1 million Christians were driven into refugee camps or killed after the U.S. invasion.) Knowing this, many of these unarmed, frightened people cling to Assad, as Iraqi Christians once clung to Saddam Hussein. And Assad works hard to keep these Christians under his control.

A friend of mine once visited a Syrian bishop. While they were sitting together the bishop got a call. It was from the Syrian secret service. They wanted to know whom he was meeting with. Assad keeps Christians on a very short leash indeed. The Christian community puts up with it out of fear of the alternatives: ISIS or al Qaeda. The bishops know that their flock is at Assad’s mercy.

Many Syrian Christians want an end to Assad’s dictatorship. Many have been victims of the regime. A friend of mine was tortured. Another saw his father “disappeared” by the Syrian secret police. I have received reports of young people being arrested and tortured because they “liked” the wrong Facebook pages.

The Christians of Al Qaryatayn trusted Assad to protect them. But in August 2015, he ignored their dire situation, and let ISIS take the town. He waited almost a year before taking action, leaving many of them to be abducted or killed by ISIS. The Assad regime has made extensive deals with ISIS to buy gas, electricity and oil. He made it his priority to fight the Free Syrian Army rather than ISIS.

Such facts explain why not all Christians in Syria support Assad. Some have instead joined the Syriac Military Council. As part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) they have been fighting against ISIS in North-East Syria since 2013 and will be part of the operation to take Raqqa. The SDF is not in any direct conflict against the Assad regime, but it is completely independent of it. These Syriac-Assyrian Christians experienced his oppressive methods first-hand. They don’t want to go back under his control.

Thankfully, the U.S. is allied with the Syrian Democratic Forces. However, a legacy policy from the Obama administration is still in place: As I reported here at The Stream, the U.S. supports the Christian militias with words, but won’t give them arms.

Now President Trump has made the decision to back the removal of Assad from power. He made this choice tangible by shelling the Shayrat Airfield as retaliation for the chemical attack at Khan Sheikhun, for which the U.S. blamed Assad.

Even without that chemical attack, the Assad regime is clearly a brutal dictatorship. The Syrian people deserve better than Assad, ISIS or al Qaeda. The great risk is that if the U.S. intervenes directly, it will hand the country to al Qaeda — as the Turks and Saudis are spending millions trying to do.

As John Zmirak and Jason Jones wrote here at The Stream, the only decent, humane solution for Syria is a Swiss-style decentralized regime. Such a government would leave power in the hands of local and regional governments and protect minority groups. The Federation of Northern Syria implemented precisely this. Kurds allied with Christians and moderate Sunni Arabs control a large swathe of the country. Instead of allowing Assad or al Qaeda to crush this free, tolerant government, a peace plan should protect it. The Russians are already behind such a plan to federalize Syria. The U.S. must use its vast influence to support it.

If the U.S. really wants Assad out of power, it needs to remove one of his key sources of support: The desperate loyalty of terrified Syrian Christians. President Trump could do that, and steal Assad’s mantle as “protector” of these people, by backing those Syriac-Assyrian Christians in Syria who are already fighting ISIS: The Syriac Military Council. The Federation of Northern Syria already controls an area twice the size of Lebanon. Would the U.S. really like to see ISIS, al Qaeda or Assad gain control of the innocent people who now live there in safety and freedom?

Why continue Obama’s bankrupt policy of singling out Christians to deny them the means of self-defense against ISIS? Why let Assad pose as the only hope for Syrian Christians? Didn’t the American people elect Donald Trump because they wanted a new approach?

The U.S. should give Syria’s fighting Christians the weapons they ask for. Russia has no objection. Arming the Syriac Military Council would hurt Assad and ISIS, and help protect millions from al Qaeda in the time after. It would also allow them to arm the many who want to join them but cannot due to a lack of arms. Here’s a video plea from the Christians on the front lines fighting ISIS, asking President Trump for help:

Christians in the U.S. can make a real difference in Syria. Contact your representatives and the president, and tell them to help our fellow Christians protect their families. (For more from the author of “Syrian Christians Need Guns” please click HERE)

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White House Turns up Heat, but Rejects ‘Red Lines’ for North Korea

Both the Trump administration and North Korea are ratcheting up statements about a potential conflict.

“President [Donald] Trump has changed the equation. We don’t know what he will do,” said Fred Fleitz, a senior vice president for the Center for Security Policy, a conservative national security think tank. “If there is a strike, shooting down missiles would be proportional. But I don’t think we will see a strike on missile sites.”

When visiting South Korea on Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence said “the era of strategic patience is over.” This came days after the North Korean state-run media asserted the country is “ready to react to any mode of war desired by the U.S.”

On Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the White House was unlikely to draw a “red line” on North Korea.

“Drawing red lines hasn’t worked well in the past. He holds his cards close to the vest and I think you’re not going to see him telegraphing how he’s going to respond to any military or any other situation going forth,” Spicer said. “The action he took in Syria shows, when appropriate, the president takes decisive action.”

President Barack Obama famously said that if Syrian dictator Bashar Assad used chemical weapons on his own people, it would be a “red line,” but when Assad did so in 2013, Obama took no action.

Trump’s policy marks a stark change in attitude from the Obama administration, Fleitz noted.

“North Korea will eventually have missiles pointed at U.S. bases, in Japan or elsewhere,” Fleitz said. “North Korean nuclear weapons have two purposes, deterrence and extortion. We have bought them off for years, then they break their commitments and we buy them off again for a little while, while their technology gets more and more advanced. This cycle can’t continue.”

The failed missile launch was rumored to be sabotaged by the U.S., but Fleitz said he thinks it more likely demonstrates that even while North Korean technology is advancing, it’s still inadequate.

“The failure of the missile test is a failure of their science and engineering. It’s hard to build an arsenal with stolen and borrowed parts,” Fleitz said. “Ph.D.s from MIT aren’t running to North Korea. There isn’t a lot of job security. If your project fails, you’ll be executed.”

A strike group of Navy warships was deployed toward North Korea. The USS Carl Vinson, which is part of the strike group, is capable of carrying 90 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.

Spicer noted that China has stopped importing North Korean coal and has signaled further economic actions after Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“The results of [the meeting], I think, is you’ve seen China playing a much more active role in North Korea, both politically and economically, that they can continue to apply pressure to achieve results,” Spicer said. “I think we’re going to continue to urge China to continue to exert that influence to get better results.”

China shouldn’t be trusted this time around, said Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at The Heritage Foundation.

“A succession of U.S. presidents all thought China would take action against North Korea, but after one to four months of action, China would always back off,” Klingner told The Daily Signal.

He said “giving China another chance” has too often led to not enforcing the law and existing sanctions.

Klingner said he has concerns about the new U.S. posture on North Korea. For instance, a strike could prompt North Korea to strike South Korea immediately.

“Many people believe it is useful to put pressure not only on North Korea but also on China,” he said. “Others, including myself, worry this could be unnecessary provocation. South Korea is having a presidential election now and the top debate question is how will the candidates prevent the U.S. from a pre-emptive attack on North Korea. It may be a negotiating tactic but a very high stakes one.” (For more from the author of “White House Turns up Heat, but Rejects ‘Red Lines’ for North Korea” please click HERE)

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Trump Warns North Korea: ‘Gotta Behave’

A day after a failed North Korean missile test, U.S. President Donald Trump had a message Monday for the North’s ruler: ‘Gotta behave.” At the same time, Vice President Mike Pence warned at the Korean Demilitarized Zone that America’s “era of strategic patience is over.”

Keeping up the verbal volleying, North Korea’s deputy U.N. ambassador accused the United States of turning the Korean peninsula into “the world’s biggest hotspot” and creating “a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment.”

Pence’s visit to the tense DMZ dividing North and South Korea came at the start of a 10-day trip to Asia and underscored U.S. commitment. It allowed the vice president to gaze at North Korean soldiers afar and stare directly across a border marked by razor wire. (Read more from “Trump Warns North Korea: ‘Gotta Behave'” HERE)

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Easter and Syrian Genocide: What Americans Can Learn

As Christians in America commemorate Easter, we are reminded of those who celebrate Jesus’ resurrection in places hostile to Christianity. Consider the Middle East Christians facing genocide. In an interview with The Stream, Knights of Columbus spokesperson Andrew Walther suggests there is much we can gain from the strength of those brothers and sisters in the Lord.

A Source of Inspiration

Last year then-Secretary of State John Kerry labeled the mass killing of Christians in the Middle East genocide. Still they remain strong in their faith, said Walther, spokesperson for the Catholic group Knights of Columbus (KoC). “They face the brunt of genocide,” but they’re still hanging on, he said. He added that their strength in the face of hardship and genocide should be a source of inspiration for Christians in the U.S.

They are optimistic about the new Trump administration, too. “I’ve been told by Iraqi Christians [that] they see a new openness in the past few months on the part of the U.S. government. They hope it translates into action,” said Walther.

Most Syrian Christians are still displaced, often in smaller camps that don’t get attention from organizations and governments on hand to help. “Christians don’t end up on the radar,” said Walther. But they’ve seen many Christian areas liberated. Some people are moving home. Just the fact that people are moving back is a good sign, said Walther. “It’s a first step, there’s still a long way to go.” He added that despite the problems in the area, there is a palpable optimism that things will get better.

The Cradle of the Church

In Iraq, the Christian population is down 80 percent since 2003. And in Syria, the Christian population is down about 60 percent since their civil war began in 2011. This is troubling for many reasons, but for Walther it goes back to St. Paul and his conversion. “The Syrian Christians weren’t converted by St. Paul,” he explains. “They baptized St. Paul. The idea that this [group] could disappear should be alarming.” He added that the roots of Christianity could disappear from the cradle of the Church. However, his organization is working hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Knights of Columbus

The Knights of Columbus has operated in the area since mid-2014 when ISIS really began taking over the territory. Walther said the KoC provide help through medical clinics, food, housing, catecheses programs among others. Just last month, the KoC pledged nearly $2 million to help the Syrian and Iraqi Christian refugees. The KoC use a variety of ways to help the people survive and rebuild.

But the assistance isn’t just for Christians, he is quick to point out. “Our clinics we fund and programs can’t turn anyone away,” he said, adding that it is a remarkable witness to non-Christians in the area who are served by Christian organizations.

Going On With Their Lives

Walther said he’d really like Americans to learn about the Christians in the area and how they’ve been persecuted for centuries. He also wants people to know that Syrian Christians “really want to go on with their lives, to go home and be full citizens in their country. They don’t want to be second-class citizens or discriminated against.” Much like the Western world, they’d like to celebrate Easter with family and contemplate Jesus’ gift to them of salvation without fear of persecution. But their faith has kept them strong, said Walther.

The Stream asked “What can Americans do?” Americans can pray for their brothers and sisters in the Middle East, said Walther, and help when possible through financial or other means. He adds that their strength in the face of genocide is an incredible testimony for American Christians and non-Christians alike. (For more from the author of “Easter and Syrian Genocide: What Americans Can Learn” please click HERE)

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The Possible Upsides of Korea Crisis

Not only is the current showdown with North Korea unlikely to lead to a military conflict, it is likely that all the countries involved will walk away believing they have achieved something for their side. In fact, it could be the perfect storm of crisis diplomacy that’s a win-win for everybody—for now.

Pyongyang gets the world’s attention. Kim family diplomacy requires that the world see its regime as a dangerous, unpredictable menace. Otherwise, why would anybody care to deal with the world’s poorest nation at the far end of the planet?

Usually the annual military parade gets no more attention than a joke on the late-night shows. This time around, Kim Jong Un’s half-serious salute got worldwide coverage. The question for Kim is how to parlay fear-mongering into some kind of strategic advantage.

Seoul and Tokyo got a big reassurance of commitment from Washington, as the U.S. rushed to show both that we’d honor our obligations to mutual defense. Nothing says we care like an armada of ships and a fleet of nuclear-capable bombers.

Beijing used the crisis to establish a rapport with the new U.S. president. Rather than stiff-arm President Donald Trump or play rope-a-dope, President Xi Jinping adopted a let’s make-a-deal attitude.

Washington got to look strong, too. In a little over a week, Trump met with top foreign leaders, including Xi, dealt with the situation in Korea, and handled a crisis in Syria. For a fledgling administration led by a president with little foreign policy chops, that was a damn decent performance.

That Trump navigated through the crisis, so far, so well is a hopeful indicator that he will deliver a mature and responsible foreign policy. Indeed, signs point in that direction.

By giving all the players involved enough space to save face, Washington helped defuse rather than escalate the crisis.

The question is: Where do we go from here?

Getting through the day without starting World War III doesn’t solve the threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea. The White House needs a sustained responsible policy. The Chinese are not going to solve the problem. Kim is never going to voluntarily give up his nukes.

Just talking will get us nowhere. What is needed is a serious long-term plan that might create future opportunities for de-escalation, something Heritage Foundation expert Bruce Klingner was pressing for even before the crisis started.

The good news is that Trump has weathered the challenge so far. The administration is following the right playbook: maximum pressure but not regime change.

But there is more to be done.

For sure, the U.S. needs to send clearer signals that it is not planning to ratchet up tensions.

While the announced part of the next-step policy seems good, the sanctions portion, including enforcing existing U.S. law, might well be put on hold pending action by China. It’s a problem that China always underperforms on its promises. Trump should not wait long for Beijing to deliver before really turning up the heat on sanctions. (For more from the author of “The Possible Upsides of Korea Crisis” please click HERE)

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