• King Felipe says Spain living through “very grave” moments for country because of Catalan crisis.
• King Felipe says Catalan government seeking to illegally proclaim independence.
• King Felipe says Catalan society today is fractured and divided, says economic stability of Spain at risk
• King Felipe says Catalan authorities “totally outside law and democracy. They have meant to fracture Spain”.
• King Felipe says Spanish state must ensure constitutional order in Catalonia.
• King Felipe says “very complex moments” but “we will come through” and “our democratic principles are solid”.
• King Felipe says Spanish crown firmly committed to constitutional order.
CNN/Euan McKirdy, Emanuella Grinberg, Isa Soares & Vasco Cotovio/01-02-17
Spain is facing a political and constitutional crisis after Catalans voted in favor of independence in a contested referendum that descended into chaos when police launched a widespread and violent crackdown.
The Catalan government said it had earned the right to split from Spain after results showed 90% of those who voted were in favor of a split.
But amid an unexpectedly harsh response from Spanish police, turnout was only around 42%.The Catalan health ministry said 893 people were injured in the clashes Sunday as riot police raided polling stations, dragged away voters and fired rubber bullets.
AFP, via TheLocalSpain/Michaela Cancela-Kieffer/09-29-17
Spain is on tenterhooks as the crisis between Catalan separatist leaders and the central government reaches fever-pitch ahead of an independence referendum banned by Madrid on Sunday.
The showdown is one of Spain’s biggest political crises since the end of the dictatorship of Francisco Franco four decades ago and it has Catalonia deeply divided.
…Determined to block the illegal vote, the state has deployed thousands of police to Catalonia, some of them housed in ferries in the ports of Barcelona and Tarragona.
South China Morning Post/Liu Zhen & Kristin Huang/09-28-17
China announced on Thursday that all North Korean firms and joint ventures in China would be closed, as part of the latest sanctions imposed on Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons programme.
All existing joint ventures with North Korean firms in China, as well as entities solely owned by North Korean companies or individuals, are to be closed within 120 days from September 11, when the sanctions were adopted, a notice from the Ministry of Commerce said.
Joint ventures set up overseas by Chinese firms and North Korean entities or individuals should also be closed, it said.
North Korea’s foreign minister on Monday accused President Donald Trump of declaring war, saying that gives the rogue regime the right to take countermeasures.
That includes the right to shoot down strategic U.S. bombers, even when they are not flying in North Korean airspace, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters in New York.
“The whole world should clearly remember it was the U.S. who first declared war on our country,” he said.
CNN/Yoko Wakatsuki & James Griffiths/09-25-17
Japanese leader Shinzo Abe has called an early election to take advantage of higher opinion polls to secure a stronger mandate as the country prepares to respond to increasing threats from North Korea.
Pyongyang has fired two ballistic missiles over northern Japan in recent weeks, as it steps up missile tests amid a deepening regional crisis.
In a national address Monday, Abe said he’ll dissolve parliament’s lower house on Thursday to “seek the mandate of the people immediately.”
TheGuardian/Tom Phillips & Justin McCurry/09-19-17
Donald Trump and Xi Jinping have agreed “to maximise pressure” on North Korea, the White House has announced, as the US president prepares to use his debut speech to the UN general assembly to urge global action against Pyongyang’s “hostile and dangerous behaviour”.
Russian-backed Syrian forces fighting Isis crossed the Euphrates river on Monday, violating a “deconfliction line” agreed between Moscow and Washington and increasing the chance of clashes between their proxy forces.
Gold prices are near steady in early New York trading Friday, despite overnight developments on the geopolitical front. The yellow metal continues to see a corrective technical pullback and some profit taking from the shorter-term futures traders after prices last week hit a 12-month high.
The marketplace is so far showing a very muted reaction to news North Korea has fired another ballistic missile over Japan. The U.N. Security Council is holding an emergency meeting today on the matter.
Reports of a bomb explosion in a London subway indicate the incident was a terror attack.
Telegraph/ Chris Graham,Danny Boyle & Neil Connor/09-15-17
North Korea has fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile that flew over Japan before landing in the northern Pacific Ocean.
It was the second aggressive test-flight over the territory of the close US ally in less than a month and it followed the sixth and most powerful nuclear test by North Korea to date on September 3.
PG View: South Korea responded by test-firing missiles of its own, as Japan considers bolstering its military capabilities.
Reuters, via CNBC/09-14.17
A North Korean state agency threatened on Thursday to use nuclear weapons to “sink” Japan and reduce the United States to “ashes and darkness” for supporting a U.N. Security Council resolution and sanctions over its latest nuclear test.
PG View: Geopolitical tensions should continue to underpin gold.
CNN/Angela Dewan, Taehoon Lee & Eli Watkins/09-03-17
US Defense Secretary James Mattis warned of “a massive military response” to any threat from North Korea against the United States or its allies in a statement outside the White House after a meeting with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and top national security advisers Sunday.
Mattis said Trump wanted to be briefed on each of the “many military options” for dealing with the North Korean nuclear threat.
“Our commitment among the allies are ironclad,” Mattis said. “Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, or our allies will be met with a massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming.”
Mattis called on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to “take heed” of the UN Security Council’s unanimous position against North Korea’s nuclear program and again stressed the US military’s position.
“We are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea, but as I said, we have many options to do so,” Mattis said.
Washington Post, via Denver Post/Anna Fifield/09-04-17
South Korea’s defense minister on Monday said it was worth reviewing the redeployment of American tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean Peninsula to guard against the North, a step that analysts warn would, if taken, sharply increase the risk of an accidental conflict.
Tensions on the peninsula remain high after North Korea conducted a huge nuclear test Sunday.
South Korea’s defense ministry said Monday that Kim Jong Un’s regime might be preparing to launch another missile, perhaps an intercontinental ballistic missile theoretically capable of reaching the mainland United States.
North Korea’s increasingly hostile threats, matched by the rapidly advancing ability to make good on them, has policymakers in the United States and in South Korea wondering how to respond.
Reuters/Andrew Osborn & Dmitry Solovyov/09-01-17
President Vladimir Putin warned on Friday that the standoff between North Korea and the United States was close to spilling into a large-scale conflict and said it was a mistake to try to pressure Pyongyang into halting its nuclear missile program.
…“It is essential to resolve the region’s problems through direct dialogue involving all sides without advancing any preconditions (for such talks),” Putin, whose country shares a border with North Korea, wrote on the Kremlin’s web site.
“Provocations, pressure, and bellicose and offensive rhetoric is the road to nowhere.”
CNN/Brad Lendon & Joshua Berlinger/08-30-17
North Korea’s launch of a missile over Japan was a prelude to more military operations directed at the American territory of Guam, North Korean state media warned Wednesday.
The country’s state-run Korean Central News Agency reported leader Kim Jong Un presided over the dawn launch Tuesday of the “ultra-modern rocket system,” the first missile ever fired from the capital Pyongyang.
…The North Korean launch was “the first step of the military operation of the (North Korean military) in the Pacific and a meaningful prelude to containing Guam,” state media said.
CNN/Joshua Berlinger, Yoko Wakatsuki & K.J. Kwon/08-29-17
US President Donald Trump has warned that “all options are on the table” after North Korea launched a missile over Japan early Tuesday.
The missile was fired just before 6 a.m. in Japan, where the launch set off warnings in the northern part of the country urging people to seek shelter.
“The world has received North Korea’s latest message loud and clear,” Trump said in a statement. “This regime has signaled its contempt for its neighbors, for all members of the United Nations, and for minimum standards of acceptable international behavior.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also denounced Tuesday’s launch, saying it represented a “most serious and grave” threat.
Investors are pulling into safe haven assets after North Korea’s missile launch.
Gold climbed to its highest level this year earlier in the day, touching $1,326.08 per ounce.
The Japanese yen, Swiss franc, and US Treasurys are rallying Tuesday morning, as well.
…”North Korea’s provocations have added to fuel to the fire that was already burning,” Marc Chandler, the global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman, said of the dollar.
Kitco News/Anna Golubova/08-22-17
Unresolved tensions between the U.S. and North Korea are still very much on the table and can boost gold prices even further, according to a recent Capital Economics report.
“Until there is some certainty as to how the current situation between the U.S. and North Korea will evolve, we think that gold prices are likely to remain well supported and could even rise above $1,350 per ounce, which hasn’t been breached since the Brexit referendum last year,” Simona Gambarini, the U.K.-based research firm’s commodity economist, said Tuesday.
The United States is targeting Chinese and Russian entities and individuals with new sanctions in its push to pressure North Korea to back off its nuclear ambitions.
The Treasury Department on Tuesday said it would target 10 entities and six individuals who help already sanctioned people who aid North Korea’s missile program or “deal in the North Korean energy trade.” The U.S. also aims to sanction people and groups that allow North Korean entities to access the U.S. financial system or helps its exportation of workers, according to the Treasury.
“Treasury will continue to increase pressure on North Korea by targeting those who support the advancement of nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and isolating them from the American financial system,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “It is unacceptable for individuals and companies in China, Russia, and elsewhere to enable North Korea to generate income used to develop weapons of mass destruction and destabilize the region.”
Although prepared for “the enveloping fire at Guam”, the North said it would watch what “the foolish Yankees” do before taking a decision.
Last week’s threat against Guam escalated the sharp rhetoric being exchanged between the two sides.
This latest report points to a pause in the increasingly bitter war of words.
So far, the war between US President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un over the latter’s nuclear program has been fought only in words. But each turn of the rhetorical screw deepens the risk that, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, “jaw-jaw” could turn into “war-war.”
…It is unlikely that either North Korea or the US actually wants war. But, as the late English historian A.J.P. Taylor concluded, after studying eight great wars since the late eighteenth century, wars have often “sprung more from apprehension than from a lust for war or for conquest.”
CNN/Zachary Cohen & Euan McKirdy/08-09-17
North Korea’s military is “examining the operational plan” to strike areas around the US territory of Guam with medium-to-long-range strategic ballistic missiles, state-run news agency KCNA said early Wednesday local time.
Specifically, the statement mentioned a potential strike on Andersen Air Force Base designed “to send a serious warning signal to the US.”
The base is one of two on the Pacific island, which are the closest bases on US soil to North Korea, and represent the westernmost tip of the country’s military might.
CNN/Jim Sciutto, Barbara Starr & Zachary Cohen/08-08-17
President Donald Trump issued an extraordinary ultimatum to North Korea on Tuesday warning Pyongyang not to make any more threats against the United States or they will “face fire and fury like the world has never seen,” during a photo op at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen… he has been very threatening beyond a normal state. They will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before,” he said.
Trump’s harsh words come as US intelligence analysts have assessed that North Korea has produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead, according to multiple sources familiar with the analysis of North Korea’s missile and nuclear program.
PG View: Gold rebounded late in the day amid the heightened geopolitical tensions.
Reuters/Jack Kim & Christine Kim/07-05-17
North Korea said on Wednesday its newly developed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) can carry a large nuclear warhead, triggering a call by Washington for global action to hold it accountable for pursuing nuclear weapons.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Defense Department said it had concluded that North Korea test-launched an ICBM on Tuesday, which some experts now believe had the range to reach the U.S. state of Alaska as well as parts of the mainland United States.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the test, on the eve of the U.S. Independence Day holiday, represented “a new escalation of the threat” to the United States and its allies, and vowed to take stronger measures.
A NATO F-16 fighter approached and was then warned away from a jet carrying Russia’s defense minister, Russian media reported Wednesday, the latest in a string of aerial incidents that have marked rising tensions between the West and Russia.
The incident occurred over the Baltic Sea in northeastern Europe, according to reporters traveling with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, in international airspace crowded with Russian and NATO jets testing one another’s nerve in sometimes dangerously close proximity.
But no incidents yet had involved aircraft with high-ranking Russian or U.S. government officials on board.
PG View: The provocations seem to be intensifying. One mistake or overreaction could lead to a major escalation.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Monday it would view as targets any flying objects over Syria in the areas of the country where its air forces operate, Russian news agencies reported.
The statement followed after a U.S. warplane shot down a Syrian army jet on Sunday in the southern Raqqa countryside, with Washington saying the jet had dropped bombs near U.S.-backed forces and Damascus saying the plane was downed while flying a mission against Islamic State militants. [nL8N1JF0YG]
The Defense Ministry also said that it was suspending its interaction with the United States on preventing air incidents over Syria from June 19, the agencies reported.
The United States shot down a pro-Syrian government drone that fired toward U.S.-led coalition forces in Syria on Thursday, a U.S. military spokesman said, in a major escalation of tensions between Washington and troops supporting Damascus.
The armed drone “hit dirt” and there were no injuries or damage done to the coalition patrol in southern Syria. But U.S. Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State, told reporters the drone meant to attack them and dismissed the possibility it had fired a warning shot.
“This clearly showed a threat even if it were a warning shot; it was something that showed a hostile intent, a hostile action and posed a threat to our forces because this drone still had munitions that were still on it,” Dillon said.
While the Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 Index and Nasdaq Composite index hit all-time highs (again) last week and with volatility hovering near a 24-year low, Secretary of Defense James Mattis gave an underreported speech that should cause investors to rethink their complacency.
In an address to a security conference in Singapore, the retired Marine Corps general who headed Central Command from 2010 to 2013 called North Korea’s burgeoning nuclear program a “clear and present danger” and an “urgent military threat.”
By my reading, that ratchets up the already sharp war of words between the Trump administration and North Korea’s ruler, Kim Jong-un. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had said failure to control North Korea’s accelerated testing of missiles and nuclear weapons could have “catastrophic consequences.” In April, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the president’s national security adviser, said the problem of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is “coming to a head” and that it poses a “grave threat” to the U.S. and its allies.
Reuters, via Jerusalem Post/06-08-17
A dispute between Qatar and some Arab states is threatening the stability of the entire region, Qatar’s foreign minister said on Thursday, adding diplomacy was still Doha’s preferred option and there would never be a military solution to the problem.
Sheik Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told reporters that Qatar had never experienced this type of hostility, even from an enemy country. He said there had been no change to Qatar’s military deployment and no troops had been moved.
President Trump has promised the world that he will “solve” the North Korean nuclear crisis before the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, can screw a nuclear weapon onto a missile that can reach San Francisco or Los Angeles, a grim feat that experts say he is on track to achieve during Mr. Trump’s first term. The president is right to point out that his predecessors succeeded only at kicking this problem down the road. But Mr. Trump hasn’t said how he plans to solve the problem.
…What we see unfolding now is a Cuban Missile Crisis in slow motion. In the most dangerous moment in recorded history, to prevent the Soviet Union from placing nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba, John F. Kennedy was prepared to take what he confessed was a one-in-three chance of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. What risk will Mr. Trump run to prevent North Korea acquiring the ability to strike the United States?