Trump Picks a Fight with U.S. ally Denmark over Greenland

The life span of a news story having to do with the Trump Administration is about one week, so it’s probably safe to encapsulate the bizarre story of Trump’s desire to buy Greenland, the large island located in the North Atlantic. Greenland is an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark, meaning that it governs itself but allows Denmark control over its foreign affairs.

According to reports first broke by The Wall Street Journal, U.S. President Donald Trump has for the last several months been asking around to see if the U.S. government can purchase Greenland from Denmark. The rumors came to a head mid-August with the Wall Street Journal report. Trump himself confirmed the rumors on August 18.

The U.S. purchase of Greenland would finally complete the encirclement of the Great Northern Threat of Canada

The people and politicians of Greenland and Denmark did not take so kindly to the interest however. Greenland’s foreign minister replied that the country was “open for business, not for sale.” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen replied that Trump’s idea of trying to purchase the island was “absurd,” which led Trump to cancel an upcoming trip to Denmark to celebrate the U.S.-Denmark relationship. He labeled Frederiksen’s remarks as “nasty” (an adjective which he has used before to criticize women such as Hillary Clinton and Meghan Markle) and then canceled the long-planned trip. It’s a funny way to conduct foreign relations with allies, to say the least.

A purchase of such a large mass of land by the U.S. government would be astounding and historic, especially by the political party that advocates small government and fiscal conservatism. It brings to mind the U.S. purchase of Alaska from Russia, which was negotiated by U.S. Secretary of State William Seward in 1867. The purchase become known popularly as “Seward’s Folly” until the Klondike Gold Rush started in 1897. Fossil fuel extraction in Alaska began with the first oil well in 1902.

It would not be the first time that the U.S. has explored purchasing Greenland either. The Truman Administration offered Denmark $100 million for the island in 1946. Seward himself tried looking into purchasing Greenland in 1868 after the Alaska Purchase. It should be noted that Greenland hosts Thule Air Base, an American military installation.

The riff between Trump and his Danish counterpart, in addition to past U.S. administrations’ interest, is apparently a big enough deal that the Issues Correlates of War (ICOW) dataset, which tracks territorial disputes around the world, is now considering this an official territorial dispute (according to ICOW’s Facebook page).

So why would Trump want to buy Greenland? Of all the issues going on around the world at the moment, why is he thinking about this?

Greenland is believed to hold many natural resources, but is covered in ice. That ice though is melting at a precipitous rate due to global climate change. CNN just reported here that Greenland lost 11 billion tons of ice in just one day. This of course will result in those natural resources being more easily extractable within the next few decades.

It is possible though that Trump is concerned about his legacy as U.S. president. Completing the one thing he actually knows how to do, purchasing real estate, may be his way of making his mark in U.S. (and Greenland) history. Of course, such a move probably would not make up for all the horrible moves he has made as president – including putting migrants in cages, starting trade wars with China and others, and overseeing the disintegration of the U.S. prestige and hegemony.

Animals Spies are Back!

Six years after enraged Egyptians caught and imprisoned a spy bird (and later released, killed, and ate it), animals moonlighting as spies are back in the news.

Back at the end of April 2019, Norwegian fishermen became intrigued by a white Beluga whale that was wearing a harness and harassing their boats. Experts have come to believe that the whale has possibly been trained by the Russian navy to do something, though that something is still the subject of debate. Is it a spy whale, a whale saboteur, or a whale trained to disrupt shipping lanes?

Martin Biuw of the Institute of Marine Research in Norway and Audun Rikardsen of the Arctic University of Norway both cite the Russian navy as the likely master of the spy whale.

Whatever type of nefarious training it is, one thing is clear…the whale is kind of cute. And the fishermen don’t seem too threatened by it. No word yet whether the Norwegians have eaten the whale…

The Oncoming Filipino-Canadian Trash War

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte is threatening to start a war against Canada if Canada does not take back trash that was shipped to Manila by a private company five years ago.

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte waving hello to Canada

According to news reports, the Canadian company, Chronic Plastics, “reportedly shipped 103 containers holding 2,450 tons of trash between 2013 and 2014. While they were labeled as recyclable plastics, Philippine inspectors found them to not be recyclable.” Surprise surprise! North Americans do not know how to properly sort their trash!

The trash now sits in long-abandoned shipping containers sweltering in the heat. Local news reports say there could be “as much as 2,500 tons of trash in 103 shipping containers.”

One of the shipping containers of Canadian trash

To be fair, the Philippines has been complaining to Canada about the trash ever since the containers were opened. During a visit to Manila in 2015, local reporters asked Trudeau about the garbage, and Trudeau replied that “a ‘Canadian solution’ was in the works and he vowed to make legislative changes to make sure it wouldn’t happen again.”

In June 2018, the Philippines’s Office of the Ombudsman ruled against Chronic Plastics, finding that it shipped the cargo without proper import clearances. The company stated that the contents were recyclable plastics, but in actuality, they contain old wires, CDs, used plastic cups and soiled adult diapers and other reeking household trash, making them worthless as recyclables.

Still you have to wonder what Duterte’s usual histrionics will accomplish, other than to boost his own domestic support. The Philippines should take the case to the World Court at the Hague since the Basel Convention, to which Canada is a signatory, was made to reduce trash being sent from developed to developing countries.

Mexican/Korean leads raid of North Korean ’embassy’ in Spain

A mysterious raid on a North Korean diplomatic compound in Madrid (which serves as its embassy) has been blamed on an equally mysterious Mexican/Korean individual. Spanish authorities are pointing to Adrian Hong Chang as the leader of the raid that took place on February 22. According to El Pais, “The 35-year-old is a US resident with a Mexican passport who ‘owns several dubious companies and is in contact with various intelligence services.’”

Hong Chang is a known critic of Kim Jong Un’s regime who has testified against North Korea in front of the Canadian Senate in 2016. Hong Chang also started a NGO called Liberty in North Korea that has helped North Koreans defect. More recently, Hong Chang identified himself as the president of the Joseon Institute, a thinktank devoted to preparing for a post-Kim North Korea.

Hong Chang giving the ubiquitous TED talk

In the Feb 22 raid, the perpetrators tied up the occupants of the compound, struck one or more of them, and stole hard drives and documents. A group named Cheollima Civil Defense (CCD) took responsibility for the raid. The same group also helped the son of Kim Jong Nam go into hiding after Nam, Un’s older half-brother, was killed by women hired by North Korean agents at the airport in Kuala Lumpur in 2017. After the raid, Hong Chang contacted the FBI and passed over information taken from the diplomatic compound.

Most of his fellow suspects are said to be South Korea. The Spanish authorities have issued international arrest warrants for the suspects.

The North Korean diplomatic compound in Madrid was raided on Feb 22

So why target the North Korean compound in Spain of all places? Could it be a provocation against North Korean government’s most well known foreign employee, the Special Representative of the Foreign Ministry of North Korea, Alejandro Cao de Benós.

As we’ve described in past entries (we’re still in the process of adding our archives to the new site), Alejandro is a Spaniard who used to cosplay with other European weirdos in North Korea military uniforms. He used his IT expertise to build websites for the North Korean foreign ministry and they finally hired him as a plenipotentiary to represent the regime overseas. Alejandro currently lives in Spain and visits North Korea a couple of times a year. Perhaps the Madrid raid was an attempt to embarrass Alejandro or hurt his standing with the Kim regime.

Is it a signal? Iranian pol visits Japan while Pence tears into regime

Iranian Parliament speaker Ali Larijani visited Tokyo February 13 to celebrate the 90th anniversary this year of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Iran. While in Tokyo, Larijani held talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and several Diet members.

The timing couldn’t be more interesting: At the very same time that Larijani was in Tokyo, US Vice President Mike Pence was at a Middle East Security conference in Warsaw, excoriating the Iranian regime and pushing Europe to join the US in abandoning the Iran nuclear deal, the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

As outlined in our last post about the Trump Nobel nomination, there has been a very one-way relationship between Abe and Trump. Abe kisses up to Trump, and Trump removes the US from the Trans Pacific Partnership. Abe kisses up to Trump some more, and Trump levies tariffs against Japan. Abe keeps it up, Trump keeps Abe in the dark on the US-North Korea summit. And then Trump has the gall to ask Abe to nominate Trump for a Nobel Peace Prize.

While Larijani was in Tokyo, he took the opportunity to criticize the US-led proceedings in Warsaw. That’s right – a prominent Iranian politician criticized US actions from the capital of one of the US’s closest allies.

Japan has long been caught between a rock and hard place when it comes to its relationship with Iran. On one hand, Japan is dependent upon its security relationship with the US. On the other hand, it needs cheap crude oil, and it imports plenty of that from Iran. Japan was one of a handful of countries that received a waiver from US sanctions to import oil from Iran in November, after the US withdrew from JCPOA.

Is the timing of Larijani’s visit a signal? After getting dogged so many times by Trump, despite his best efforts to buddy up to him, is Abe finally showing a back bone? Remember that when Trump outed Abe as his Nobel nominator (which generally is not done), someone leaked to the Japanese press the fact that the request originated from the White House. Maybe both of these are signs that Abe has had enough. After all, Trump is extremely unpopular in Japan.

Trump to Japan’s Abe: “Please nominate me for a Nobel Prize!”

The world collectively snickered in 2018 when it became apparent that someone had nominated President Donal Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize for his no-results summit meeting with ruthless North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un.

Now it turns out that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe nominated Trump for the Nobel, as announced by Trump during his “national emergency” news conference on February 2015. As news outlets pointed out soon after, Abe’s nomination of Trump actually came at the request of the White House.

Abe and Trump have seemingly got along well due to Abe’s enthusiastic efforts to get on Trump’s good side. Abe was the first foreign leader to meet the new President-elect Trump in November 2016 when he visited Trump Tower.

But Trump ungratefully repaid that visit by scrapping the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) after his inauguration, a trade pact upon which Abe had spent a lot of political capital trying to get his pessimistic constituents to accept.

This led Abe to raise the ante in kissing up to Trump. In Feb 2017, he was Trump’s dinner guest at the president’s club in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, when Trump started discussing the news about a North Korean missile launch during dinner, within open earshot of club members. He then had Trump over to Japan in Nov 2017 for some burgers and golf.

Trump repaid these overtures by adding Japan to the list of states to be covered by his steel tariffs in the spring of 2018, though it turns out Japan was later added to the long list of states that were exempted. He scolded Abe on Japan’s trade balance with the US, and then announced the summer 2018 North Korea summit without so much as letting Abe in on the secret.

So what did Abe do in return for all this? He nominates Trump for a Nobel Prize (once again, upon the request of the White House). Trump abused Abe once more when he outed Abe as the nominator in that Feb 15 press conference, without mentioning that he or his aides had requested the nomination.

Maybe Abe is finally learning his lesson that Trump can’t be trusted however. Someone from his inner circle no doubt leaked to the Japanese press the fact that the White House requested the nomination for their fragile egoistic leader. Moreover, Abe strategically met with a notable Iranian politician in Tokyo at the very moment that US Vice Pres Mike Pence was excoriating Iran at an anti-Iran summit in Warsaw (covered in the next entry!).