North Korea's Wildly Inflated Blowup

Assuming that you’re a journalist in Northeast Asia with $10,000 to spare this week, you can get tickets to a killer show: the destruction of North Korea’s main underground nuclear test site, nestled deep within Mount Mantap near the Chinese border.


It will surely be a spectacle — the North Korean regime is good at that — but as Trump and Kim warily circle each other ahead of a possible face-to-face meeting in June, is it a meaningful gesture in the gyres of diplomacy? Well, for one thing, the nuclear site has reportedly already partially collapsed following its last use.

Second, the site has already largely served its purpose, which was to develop a nice batch of nuclear warheads. Whether Kim was able to develop missiles that could reliably carry those warheads to the United States is less certain. But that’s not the work of fission specialists in the bowels of Mount Mantap.

The big question at the summit will be: How does each side define denuclearization? We learned last week that Pyongyang and Washington still have very different ideas about this. Blowing up the nuclear test facility won’t advance either side’s understanding here.

So while $10,000 seems like a bargain to hang with Kim Jong-un and watch the destruction of a nuclear test site, the event is more media spectacle than diplomatic substance. And Kim certainly knows it.

The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace launched in 2018 with the commitment of signatories to stand up to cyber threats like election interference, attacks on critical infrastructure, and supply chain vulnerabilities. Last week, on the first anniversary of the call, the number of signatories has nearly tripled to more than 1,000 and now includes 74 nations; more than 350 international, civil society and public sector organizations; and more than 600 private sector entities. These commitments to the Paris Call from around the world demonstrate a widespread, global, multi-stakeholder consensus about acceptable behavior in cyberspace.

Read More at Microsoft On The Issues.

In recent years, Republicans have come to dominate most of the state legislatures in the US. Ironically, it was during the Obama-era that the GOP made major headway in states that had long been considered safely blue. State legislatures are now redder than they've been in nearly a century, and in most parts of the country, one party holds all the levers of power. For the first time since 1914, there's only one split legislature in the entire country: Minnesota. To be sure, some state races are bucking the trend: Kentucky and Louisiana, both deep-red states, recently elected Democratic governors. Here's a look at how Democratic and Republican control of state legislatures has evolved over the past four decades.

Forty years ago, Islamic extremists angry at the Saudi government's experiments with social liberalization laid siege to the Grand Mosque of Mecca, the holiest site in Islam.

The attack came on the heels of the Iranian revolution across the Gulf, putting the House of Saud and its American backers in a precarious spot. Tehran had challenged Saudi Arabia's Islamic legitimacy from without, while jihadists were now doing the same from within. For a few days it seemed as though the world's most important oil producer – and the custodian of Islam's holiest places – might be in danger of collapse.

More Show less

Forty years ago today, dozens of bearded gunmen stormed the holiest site in Islam, the Grand Mosque at Mecca, in Saudi Arabia.

They held the complex for two weeks before a French-trained Saudi force rooted them out, but the fallout from the attack went on to shape the modern Middle East in ways that are still with us today: in the scourge of transnational jihadism and the deepening rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

More Show less

What changes now that the U.S. softened its position on Israeli settlements?

Well, I mean, not a lot. I mean, keep in mind that this is also the administration that moved the embassy to Jerusalem, from Tel Aviv. Everyone said that was going to be a massive problem. Ultimately, not many people cared. Same thing with recognition of Golan Heights for Israel. This is just one more give from the Americans to the Israelis in the context of a region that doesn't care as much as they used to about Israel - Palestine.

More Show less