• Both the US and China have been taking unprecedented steps as tensions ramp up along the Korean Peninsula.
• China has prepared refugee camps and information for citizens to help them survive nuclear attacks and has expanded its offensive capabilities with its air force.
• The US has stepped up military drills, practiced air raids, and reportedly started preparing to seize North Korea’s nuclear weapons by force.
The Hill/Mallory Shelbourne/12-19-17
National security adviser H.R. McMaster said in a Tuesday morning interview that he does not believe the world can allow North Korea to develop nuclear weapons.
“I don’t think we can tolerate that risk. The world can’t tolerate that risk,” McMaster told “CBS This Morning” when asked if the United States and a nuclear North Korea can “co-exist.”
PG View: McMaster stops short of saying how far the U.S. is prepared to go to prevent nuclear armed North Korea, but the threat seems pretty clear. The associated geopolitical risk should continue to underpin gold.
The Hill/Mallory Shelbourne/11-07-17
North Korea has reportedly said that a nuclear conflict in the region is unavoidable, accusing CIA Director Mike Pompeo of provocation.
…“We do not wish for a war but shall not hide from it, and should the U.S. miscalculate our patience and light the fuse for a nuclear war, we will surely make the U.S. dearly pay the consequences with our mighty nuclear force which we have consistently strengthened,” the unidentified spokesperson said in remarks originally reported by the Korean Central News Agency.
NBCNews/by Alexander Smith/12-04-17
Two dozen U.S. stealth jets were among hundreds of aircraft involved in war games intended as a show of strength to neighboring North Korea on Monday.
Dubbed Vigilant Ace, the annual military drills come amid heightened tensions in the region triggered by Kim Jong Un’s missile and nuclear tests and ratcheting rhetoric from both sides.
…North Korea described the exercises as a “grave provocation,” claiming in its state-run media Monday that they could escalate the situation “to the brink of nuclear war.”
Members of the United Nations Security Council strongly condemned North Korea’s successful launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile during an emergency meeting in New York on Wednesday, during which US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the rogue regime’s actions have brought the world “closer to war.”
“The dictator of North Korea made a choice yesterday that brings the world closer to war, not farther from it,” Haley said. “We have never sought war with North Korea, and still today we do not seek it. If war does come, it will be because of continued acts of aggression like we witnessed yesterday.”
“And if war comes, make no mistake, the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed,” she added.
Sen. Lindsey Graham on Tuesday warned that the U.S. could be hurtling toward a war with North Korea “if things don’t change” after the country’s latest weapons test.
Graham, an outspoken defense hawk, told CNN during an interview that he believes “every test puts them closer” to a military conflict.
“We’re headed toward a war if things don’t change,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
North Korea has fired a ballistic missile, South Korean media say, quoting military officials.
The news was confirmed by a US government source, according to Reuters news agency.
South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that the missile flew eastward from Pyongsong in South Pyongan province.
It is not clear how far it went or whether it flew over Japan as other missiles did earlier this year.
CNN/Dan Merica & Jeremy Diamond/11-20-17
President Donald Trump, in the latest demonstration of increased tensions on the Korean Peninsula, placed North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Trump announced the move Monday during a public meeting with his Cabinet at the White House and said the Treasury Department will announce new sanctions against North Korea on Tuesday.
North Korea is rejecting calls from China to step away from its nuclear program, claiming such weapons are vital to the security of its people, the Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency reported Friday.
“The conclusion that our army and people have reached via the history of North Korea-U.S. confrontations is there is no way other than standing against the repressive U.S. imperialists only with a nuclear deterrent of justice,” the state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun wrote in an article…
PG View: Newsweek is also reporting that North Korea is building a ballistic missile submarine. I would imagine the U.S. views the prospect of a North Korean “boomer” lurking off the west coast as completely unacceptable.
Zimbabwe’s military has placed President Robert Mugabe under house arrest in the capital Harare, South African President Jacob Zuma says.
Mr Mugabe told Mr Zuma in a phone call that he was fine, the South African leader’s office said.
Troops are patrolling the capital, Harare, after they seized state TV and said they were targeting “criminals”.
The move may be a bid to replace Mr Mugabe with his sacked deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, BBC correspondents say.
UK Express/Joe Barnes/11-13-17
North Korea has continued with its development of a nuclear weapons arsenal despite international condemnation.
After the rogue state’s despot leader Kim Jong-un started a furious war of words with US President Donald Trump fears of the possible outbreak of World War 3 intensified.
…“The situation of the Korean peninsula is now on the worst phase of tension in which a nuclear war may break out any moment due to the US reckless moves for aggression on the DPRK.”
North Korea has also reportedly sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin about a potential strike on the United States as the crisis threatens to boil over.
FT/Michael Stothard & Tobias Buck/11-03-17
The police vans emerged from the underground car park with blue lights flashing, and sped away into the Madrid dusk. Inside were nine former Catalan ministers and independence leaders, heading for their first night in a Spanish prison cell.
…The arrests on Thursday offered a high-drama coda to a high-drama week that started with a defiant declaration of independence in the Catalan regional parliament and ended with the entire Catalan leadership in jail or on the run.
In legal terms, the separatist defeat is complete.
PG View: Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and his ministers have fled to Brussels and are vowing to fight and efforts to extradite them back to Spain to face charges. The arrest (and exile) of the leadership may however prompt the secessionists to re-coalesce around these “martyrs” to the cause.
Almost two-thirds say this is the lowest point in U.S. history—and it’s keeping a lot of them up at night.
For those lying awake at night worried about health care, the economy, and an overall feeling of divide between you and your neighbors, there’s at least one source of comfort: Your neighbors might very well be lying awake, too.
PG View: A more meaningful source of comfort might be found in gold. It may help you sleep a little easier, knowing at least a portion of your wealth is protected.
Spain is set to put in place measures to take direct control of Catalonia in response to the region’s declaration of independence last week.
On Friday, Madrid stripped Catalonia of its autonomy and removed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont from office.
The temporary move will see as many as 150 of the region’s ministers replaced. Some have vowed to continue to work.
Mr Puigdemont and other Catalan officials may face criminal charges, a move likely to lead to huge protests.
PG View: Those charges have since been announced:
NYT/Raphael Minder & Patrick Kingsley/10-27-17
Spain’s leader fired the government of the country’s Catalonia region on Friday, dissolved the regional parliament and ordered new elections after defiant Catalan lawmakers declared independence, escalating the biggest political crisis in Spain in decades.
The measures announced by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in a televised address capped a frenzied day of political maneuvering in Madrid, Spain’s capital, and Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, where the long drive for independence — illegal under Spain’s Constitution — has now reached its fiercest level yet.
…Spain’s attorney general may now seek to detain Catalan leaders on grounds of rebellion.
CNN/Claudia Rebaza & Laura Smith-Spark/10-27-17
Catalonia’s regional Parliament voted overwhelmingly Friday in favor of independence from Spain, taking the country’s political crisis into uncharted territory.
The vote came as the Spanish Senate debated the Madrid government’s unprecedented plans to seize control of the autonomous region in a bid to quash its independence bid.
…Addressing the Senate on Friday, Rajoy said the rule of law had been “stomped on” in Catalonia and warned of a fracturing of society. “Exceptional measures need to be adopted when there are no other ways to go back to normality,” he said.
He proposed sacking the government of Catalonia and calling new elections, under the provisions of Article 155 of the Spanish constitution.
Pressure is rising on Catalonia’s President Carles Puigdemont over his regional government’s drive for independence from Spain.
He is expected to make a statement in Barcelona at 17:00 (15:00 GMT) to clarify his position.
The Spanish government plans to strip the regional government and Mr Puigdemont of their powers.
Article 155 of the Spanish constitution lets Madrid take control of institutions, police and finances.
A senior North Korean official has issued a stern warning to the world that it should take “literally” his country’s threat to test a nuclear weapon above ground.
The official, Ri Yong Pil, told CNN in an exclusive conversation in Pyongyang that the threat made by North Korea’s foreign minister last month should not be dismissed. North Korea “has always brought its words into action,” Ri said, visibly angry.
…”The foreign minister is very well aware of the intentions of our supreme leader, so I think you should take his words literally,” Ri told CNN in Pyongyang.
The Independent/Caroline Mortimer/10-25-17
Catalonia’s vice-president has said that the Spanish government has given them “no choice” but declare independence.
Oriol Junqueras said his party, one of the two in the ruling separatist coalition which forms the Catalan government, is “going to work toward building a republic” because they have a “democratic mandate” following a referendum earlier this month.
PG View: Either way, Spain appears poised to invoke Article 155 before the end of the week, suspending Catalonia’s autonomy.
The super carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and its supporting warships have entered the western Pacific and will “integrate” with other US ships deployed in the region, including those near the Korean peninsula.
Catalan authorities will not follow orders from the Spanish government if Madrid moves to reassert control over the region, a senior official says.
Foreign affairs spokesman Raul Romeva told the BBC the central government was acting against the will of Catalans.
Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has announced plans to sack the region’s government and curtail some of the freedoms of its parliament.
The Catalan parliament will meet on Thursday to decide on its response.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo said the United States has to act as if North Korea is on the verge of being able to strike it with a missile and act accordingly — and that President Donald Trump is ready to do so.
…Pompeo is among a number of former officials who have been signaling the increased possibility of a slide into military confrontation with North Korea over its refusal to back down from its nuclear program.
CNN/Laura Smith-Spark, Claudia Rebaza & Isa Soares/10-19-17
The Spanish government said Thursday it would begin the process to impose direct rule on Catalonia in an unprecedented move to crush the region’s independence bid.
In a statement from Madrid, the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said it would invoke Article 155 of the constitution, a provision that allows the central government to suspend the autonomy of the Catalan regional administration.
Rajoy’s Cabinet will meet on Saturday to agree measures to “restore the constitutional order” in Catalonia, where a banned referendum on independence took place earlier this month. The plan will then be put before the Senate, where Rajoy’s Popular Party has a majority, for approval.
Spain’s prime minister has put Catalonia on notice that it could impose direct rule on the region.
Mariano Rajoy said his government had asked the regional government to clarify whether or not it had declared independence.
The move is the first step towards suspending Catalonia’s autonomy under the constitution.
Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont on Tuesday proclaimed the region’s independence from Spain but said the effects would be postponed to allow for talks.
“I assume the mandate that Catalonia should become an independent state in the form of a republic … I propose suspending the effects of the declaration of independence to undertake talks to reach an agreed solution,” Puigdemont told the regional parliament.
CNN/Euan McKirdy, Hilary Clarke & Angela Dewan/10-10-17
Catalonia’s leader is due to address a specially convened session of the region’s parliament Tuesday, as he comes under growing pressure to stop short of declaring independence from Spain.
…Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he was determined to prevent a breakaway by the northeastern province in the wake of the October 1 vote.
“Spain will not be divided, and the national unity will be preserved. To this end we will employ all the means we have within the law. It is up to the government to make decisions, and to do so at the right moment,” Rajoy said in an interview with German newspaper Die Welt on Monday.
PG View: Bloomberg is reporting that Spanish authorities are reportedly ready to arrest Catalan President Carles Puigdemont
CNN/Hilary Clarke & Angela Dewan/10-09-17
Spain faces a week of deep political uncertainty as the secessionist leader of Catalonia considered whether to make a unilateral declaration of independence, against the backdrop of a bitter standoff with the central government in Madrid.
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont had been expected to make a formal declaration at a specially convened session of the Catalan parliament on Tuesday.
President Donald Trump on Monday morning tweeted another hint that he was nearing the end of his patience with North Korea.
“Our country has been unsuccessfully dealing with North Korea for 25 years, giving billions of dollars & getting nothing. Policy didn’t work!” Trump tweeted.
Trump’s tweet echoes a sentiment he expressed over the weekend that “only one thing will work” to solve the North Korea crisis.
…Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, later confirmed the meaning in an interview on NBC: Trump was “clearly telegraphing” military action against North Korea.
Securing North Korea’s missile launchers and nuclear, chemical and biological weapons sites would likely be a chief priority for China in the event of a major crisis involving its communist neighbor, analysts say, although Beijing so far is keeping mum on any plans.
Despite China’s official silence, its People’s Liberation Army likely has a “vast array” of contingency plans involving military options, said Dean Cheng, an Asia security expert at the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington…
…What’s less clear is whether and under what conditions China would commit troops as an occupying force should North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s regime fall apart, Cheng said.
Catalonia will move on Monday to declare independence from Spain, a regional government source said, as the European Union nation nears a rupture that threatens the foundations of its young democracy and has unnerved financial markets.
PG View: In light of the aggressive measures employed by Spain to suppress the referendum, what steps might they take to halt further steps toward independence?