BRINK OF WAR: Tensions Mount as Israel Fends Off Attacks on Its Northern Border

ISRAEL (Washington Free Beacon) — Israel is fending off attacks on its northern border while it confronts an escalating conflict with Hamas.

Israel Defense Forces shot down a drone near the country’s northern border on Tuesday. Although the drone approached Israel from Jordanian airspace, Israeli military officials say its origin is unclear.

The day before, a Palestinian militia fired at least six rockets at Israel from Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon. Three other rockets were launched at Israel from Syria on Friday after Hezbollah claimed Israeli forces killed one of its militants during a border protest.

The strikes on the country’s northern border come as Hamas ramps up its rocket attacks on cities in central and southern Israel. On Tuesday, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo said there is a real risk for a two-front war and that Iran-backed Hezbollah could join Hamas in its violent campaign against the Jewish state.

“The risk that Hezbollah decides to join this fight is real,” Pompeo said. “We know that Hezbollah has been able to build out their capabilities, including precision-guided munitions in the north. The threat is real in ways that these rockets from Hamas are not.”

While the Biden administration calls for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, Hamas continues to fire thousands of rockets toward Israeli cities. The terror group killed two Thai workers in southern Israel on Tuesday and wounded seven others. Israeli authorities on Sunday also apprehended two Jordanian men inside Israel who snuck past the border armed with knives.


The Washington Free Beacon’s Jack Beyrer contributed to the contents of this report.

Tensions Rise as Biden Reignites War Power Battle With Syria Strike

WASHINGTON (The Hill) — Joe Biden’s strike in Syria is reviving a dormant fight over war powers as Congress looks to claw back some of its authority.

The military action sparked grumbling from Democrats who say they weren’t adequately consulted on the strikes and questioned where Biden drew the authority, which the White House says falls under his powers as commander in chief.

The war powers debate will have repercussions beyond just Syria, but senators say it underscores that while the administration has changed since the last time the issue was in the spotlight, the need for action from Congress hasn’t.

“Last week’s airstrikes in Syria show that the executive branch, regardless of party, will continue to stretch its war powers,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.).

Attempts to rein in a president’s war authorities frequently divide the two ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and are a landmine of competing and conflicting interests: Presidents are loath to give up power, with Republicans often wary of military restrictions in general, while Congress has increasingly given away its powers in recent decades.

“I think the problem is mostly inside these walls. I think it’s really had to define who America’s enemies are today and Congress … generally doesn’t want to get involved in that work, so I think Congress has over the years has just been very used to outsourcing those decisions,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

Kaine and Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) led a bipartisan group on Tuesday that introduced legislation to repeal the 1991 and 2002 war authorizations, both of which deal with Iraq. Senators say they want to formally take the Gulf and Iraq war authorizations for the use of military force (AUMFs) off the books to prevent potential misuse down the line.

This isn’t the first time Congress has tried to repeal the decades-old authorizations. Kaine and Young introduced similar legislation in 2019, but it languished in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The House voted last year to repeal the 2002 authorization, drawing a veto threat from Trump. The measure did not advance in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Even though the 2002 law was authorized to invade Iraq, then-President Obama cited it as legal justification for action in Syria against ISIS, and the Trump administration initially cited it for strikes against Iran.

Kaine said he informed the White House of his bill during a call on Monday evening and sent them a copy, describing them as open to a discussion.

“I’m happy to say the White House seems really willing to engage,” he told The Hill.

Asked about the division lines between the branches of government, Kaine predicted that “we’ll run into it again.”

“The reason that I think it might go somewhere now is you’ve got a number of Republicans who I think were interested in the position last time, but they didn’t want to cross Trump,” he added.

Five House committee chairs also sent Biden a letter earlier this year urging him to support nixing the 2002 authorization and reforming the 2001 law that was passed to fight al Qaeda.

In a symbolic win, Democrats who have long pushed to repeal or revamp the war authorities got language included in the 2020 party platform committing to work with Congress to repeal the AUMFs and “replace them with a narrow and specific framework.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told senators during his confirmation hearing that Biden “feels very strongly” about revamping the military authorizations — but acknowledged a deal won’t be easy.

“For some the porridge is too hot, for others the porridge is too cold. And can we get a consensus around what’s just right? But I would be determined and committed to working on that,” he said.

A push to reform the 2001 authorization could be politically trickier.

Kaine said that he was having discussions with senators about ideas on how to reform the authorization, which was drafted to take military action against those who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.” But since 2001, it’s been stretched more broadly to greenlight operations that critics argue have a tenuous or no connection to 9/11.

“We’re engaging in a rewrite of ‘01. … But we don’t yet have a proposal,” Kaine said.

Murphy said Congress should work closely with the Biden administration about how to rewrite the 2001 authorization but noted that it would be “tricky.”

“What I think we should do is sunset the 2001 AUMF, in part as a forcing mechanism to write a new authorization,” he said.

Murphy predicted that the divisions would fall along party lines and less of a gap between a Democratic administration and congressional Democrats.

“There has historically not been much Republican interest in rewriting the 2001 AUMF,” Murphy said.

But Murphy said there are bipartisan conversations ongoing, including with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah),  about reforming the War Powers Resolution, which lays out things like congressional notification requirements for military action and how long troops can remain without congressional approval.

“There’s a few of us talking across the aisle on war powers reform,” he said. “Mike Lee and myself have been … talking about the entire war powers statue, which is obviously in need of an update.”

REPORT: Four military service members confirmed dead in Syria explosion

BEIRUT — The U.S. military confirmed Wednesday that at least two U.S. military members were killed during an explosion while on patrol.

Military officials acknowledged the blast which took place in the northern Syrian town of Manbij via Twitter on Wednesday morning.

“U.S. service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria today,” military officials responsible for operations in Iraq and Syria said in a statement. “We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time.

The blast killed a total of 16 people including nine civilians according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based Syrian war monitoring agency.

Three additional service members were wounded in a blast. Their immediate conditions have not yet been confirmed.

A news site affiliated with Islamic State earlier issued statement claiming an attacker with a suicide vest had targeted a patrol of the U.S.-led coalition operating in Manbij.

U.S. officials have yet to confirm or deny those allegations.

FILE PHOTO: Syrian Democratic Forces and U.S. troops are seen during a patrol near Turkish border in Hasakah

ON THE BRINK: Netanyahu moves security meetings to underground bunker as war with Iran looms

Jerusalem (The Times of Israel) — Israel’s high-level security cabinet will meet in a new, specially built underground bunker in Jerusalem for the foreseeable future.

The change of venue — meetings of the security cabinet usually take place in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem — may signal the heightened sensitivity of upcoming discussions, with some observers in the Hebrew-language media suggesting it could point to preparations for a possible escalation of hostilities with Iran.

Talks held in the secure bunker could also prevent leaks to the media.

The decision to move the meetings to the bunker was made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Following Israel’s recent military successes, including the Air Force’s strike on an Iranian base attack two weeks ago, the cabinet is reportedly formulating policy and deciding Israel’s red lines with regard to Iran and Syria.

During two pre-dawn hours on May 10, Israeli F-15 and F-16 fighter jets evaded “dozens of missiles” and dropped “many dozens” of bombs on over 50 Iranian targets throughout Syria as the Israel air force carried out an extensive campaign, dubbed “Operation House of Cards,” to debilitate Iran’s military presence in the country.

Those strikes came after 32 rockets were fired by Iranian troops in Syria at the Golan Heights, according to Israel Air Force figures, none of which struck Israeli territory.

At a meeting on the morning after the attack, the security cabinet discussed how best to proceed — whether to press its military advantage or settle for what had already been achieved, Hadashot news reported.

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TENSIONS RISE: Israel and Iran inch closer to war as Israel strikes back against Syrian targets

Jerusalem (The Telegraph) — Israel and Iran lurched closer to an all out war on Thursday after the Israeli military struck “almost all” of Iran’s bases in Syria in response to what it said was a Iranian rocket barrage fired at the Golan Heights.

The exchange of fire was the most direct confrontation between the two Middle East rivals after years of standoff in Syria and came just one day after Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear agreement and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

Israeli carried out its largest wave of airstrikes in Syria since the 1973 war, striking around 50 Iranian military bases, supply depots, and intelligence sites as well as Syrian regime air defence batteries, the Israeli military said.

“We, of course, struck almost all the Iranian infrastructure in Syria, and they need to remember this arrogance of theirs,” said Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli defence minister. “If we get rain, they’ll get a flood.”

The wave of strikes was in response to a barrage of 20 rockets which Israel said were fired by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard towards the Golan, a mountainous region that Israel annexed from Syria after capturing it in 1967.

There were no casualties on the Israeli side. The Israeli military said its Iron Dome missile defence system had intercepted four of the rockets at around 12.10am on Thursday, while the other 16 fell harmlessly inside of Syrian territory.

At least 23 people were killed by the Israeli strikes, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It was not clear how many of the dead were Iranians. Iran has neither confirmed nor denied that it was responsible for the rocket barrage.

Israel has said repeatedly it will not allow Iran to build up a permanent military presence in Syria and is prepared to go to war to stop it. “Whoever hurts us, we will hurt him sevenfold. Whoever tries to hurt us, we will act to hurt him beforehand,” said Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister.

Tensions between the two sides have risen sharply since April 9, when a suspected Israeli strike on the T4 airbase in central Syria killed at least seven Iranians. Iran vowed revenge for the bombing and Israel has been warning for weeks that it was expecting an Iranian attack.

In February, Iran allegedly launched an armed drone from Syria into Israel. Israel shot down the drone and carried out a wave of airstrikes in response. One Israeli F-16 was shot down by Syrian air defence systems during the attack, the first time Israel has lost a warplane in combat since 1982.

Britain and the US were quick to issue messages of support for Israel and condemning Iran. “The United Kingdom condemns in the strongest terms the Iranian rocket attacks against Israeli forces. We strongly support Israel’s right to defend itself,” said Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary.

Both the UK and US called on Russia to do more to rein in Iran’s presence in Syria and avoid a further escalation. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, also condemned the attack in phone call with Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president.

The Israeli attacks are likely to strain the relationship between Iran and Russia, who are fighting on the same side in Syria on behalf of the Assad regime.

Israel warned Russia of its intention to launch strikes ahead of time but Russian forces in Syria appear to have done nothing to shield their Iranian allies. Hours before the Israeli attack, Vladimir Putin hosted Mr. Netanyahu as an honoured guest at a military parade in Moscow.

While Israel has scored tactical military victories over Iran in Syria, it has struggled with a broader diplomatic campaign to convince world powers to clamp down on Iran in Syria. Mr. Netanyahu travels regularly to Moscow to make this point but his diplomatic efforts have so far yielded few visible results.

Bahrain also voiced support for Israel’s strikes, in an unusual example of an Arab state publicly applauding Israel for dropping bombs on the territory of a fellow Arab state. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations share many of Israel’s fears about Iran.

Israel said the rockets were fired by the Quds Force, the expeditionary wing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, and accused its leader, General Qassem Soleimani, of personally ordering the attack.

“It was ordered and commanded by Qassem Soleimani and it has not achieved its purpose,” said Lt Col Jonathan Conricus, a spokesman for the Israeli Defence Forces.

By Thursday afternoon quiet had returned to the Golan Heights and tourists mingled with UN Observers on Mount Bental, a mountain affording sweeping views into Syria.

Nathan Gabah, a 24-year-old businessman relaxing in the late afternoon sun at the beauty spot, said he heard explosions on Thursday morning from his home city of Safed, around 30 miles from the site of the alleged Iranian barrage.

“There was a vroom and a bang, like a bomb,” he said, describing the firing of an Iron Dome anti-missile battery near by.

“I’m not worried at all. Then again I have a friend who is really scared. It varies from person to person,” he shrugged. “It doesn’t feel like we’ve suddenly gone to war.”

israel vs iran

Sanders on Pompeo: Democrats must decide ‘if they love this country more than they hate Trump’

WASHINGTON, D.C. — White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders on Monday came out swinging against Democrats who are actively opposing President Trump’s secretary of state nominee Mike Pompeo.

Pompeo, whose confirmation will be debated on Monday, faces a wealth of opposition from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“Look, at some point, Democrats have to decide whether they love this country more than they hate this president,” Sanders said during an early morning appearance on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends”.

Democrats are not alone in their quest to block Pompeo’s approval.

In addition to the 10 Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who say they will vote against Pompeo’s confirmation, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky says he, too, will oppose Pompeo.

During a Senate confirmation hearing on April 12, the 21 members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including Paul, had the opportunity to question Pompeo.

During Paul’s questioning of Pompeo, issues involving President Trump’s interventionist policies in the Middle East were a topic of near-constant scrutiny.

“[Trump] says the Iraq war was the single worst decision ever made. So, once again, I’m concerned that you won’t be supporting the president,” Paul told Pompeo. “That you will be influencing him in a way that I think his inclinations are actually better than many of his advisors. That the Iraq war was a mistake that we need to come home from Afghanistan.”

“He was against being involved in Syria at many times in his career,” Paul continued, referencing Trump’s past statements which suggest he opposes “another Iraq war, bombing Syria without permission.”

Paul went on to grill the secretary of state nominee over an exchange between Pompeo and another member of the committee, Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.), in which Paul noted that as the two discussed whether or not Trump has the authority to bomb President Bashar al Assad’s forces or installations in Syria, Pompeo had replied that America has done so in the past.

“My question would be do you think it’s constitutional?,” Paul demanded. “Does the President have the constitutional authority to bomb Assad’s forces? Does he have the authority absent congressional action to bomb Assad’s forces or installations?”

“Senator, … I think I said this to Senator Kaine, I’m happy to repeat my view on this,” Pompeo replied. “Those decisions are weighted. Every place we can, we should work alongside Congress to get that but yes I believe the President has the domestic authority to do that…. I don’t think that has been disputed by Republicans or Democrats throughout an extended period of time.”

While not mentioning Paul directly, Sanders said that anyone who votes against Pompeo’s confirmation would be doing a disservice to the country.

“[Pompeo] has been one of the leading people when it comes to the negotiations and the conversations with North Korea,” Sanders said. “To stop that would be incredibly dangerous and damaging for our country and the world.”

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REPORT: Trump overruled Mattis bid to get Congressional OK before striking Syria

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Newsmax) — President Donald Trump overruled Defense Secretary James Mattis’ advice to get Congressional approval to strike Syria, The New York Times reported.

Trump wanted a rapid response that would correlate well with his strong tweets about Syria earlier in the week, the Times reports.

Mattis was able to earn a compromise from the president by limiting the scope – three targets – of the airstrikes, the Times reports. Mattis worried that a too-aggressive response could run the risk of widening the dispute with Russia over Syria.

Where Mattis once had an ideological ally in former national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Trump’s new national security adviser John Bolton is a hawk who will not defer to the defense secretary, the Times reports, a new dynamic that took center stage Friday night at the White House.

Mattis has defended the military response as being in accord “under international law, under our nation’s laws. But flak is coming from both sides of the aisle.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Trump “missed a real opportunity here to get it right.”

And the left viewed the strikes as a show card.

FULL STORY: https://www.newsmax.com/politics/trump-mattis-advice-airstrikes/2018/04/18/id/855178/

TRUMPSYRIA

‘HE STANDS WITH US’: Supporters of the Syrian opposition praise Trump’s efforts as strike on Syria looms

ERBIL, Iraq — President Donald Trump developed a new wave of fans courtesy supporters of the Syrian opposition.

In response to a series of tweets in which Trump announced plans to strike Syria in the wake of another deadly gas attack that left dozens dead and wounded, Syrians held up in rebel-held areas and in the larger diaspora on Wednesday circulated a new meme on social media which features Trump’s face overlayed with the American flag and the words “We love you,” in both Arabic and English.

“We are all with Trump, we will never forget that he stands with us and save us from the hell of Russia, Iran and Assad,” Tarek Muharam 40, a leader in the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) told Fox News. “Finally, someone smelled the smell of chemical weapons and decide to stop these massacres.”

In a series of cryptic tweets, Trump warned not only Syria, but its strongest ally, Russia, who vowed to strike down any missile fired at Syrian targets, that an attack was on the way.

“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria,” Trump tweeted early Wednesday morning. “Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”

Russian leaders, with whom Trump has had a tense relationship with over the course of the past several months, was quick to issue response.

“U.S. President Donald Trump has stated that Russia should be ready to shoot missiles issued in Syria,” said Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russia Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Smart missiles must fly towards terrorists, not a legitimate government that has been fighting international terrorism in its territory for several years.”

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in anticipation of a military strike, has reportedly left his presidential residence and relocated to protected area.

Meanwhile, some of Trump’s most vocal supporters have come out in opposition against a Syrian strike.

“Today over 500,000 people have watched my videos and streams. 90% are @realDonaldTrump supporters, none want war with Syria. #NoMoreWars” Conservative commentator Mike Cernovich tweeted on April 7.

Cernovich’s comments were echoed by Fox News’ Laura Ingrham who called out Trump’s aggression toward Syria as a direct reversal of the type of policy Trump campaigned on .

“Missiles flying. Rubio’s happy. McCain ecstatic. Hillary’s on board. A complete policy change in 48 hrs,” Ingrham tweeted.

One of the most vocal protests against a U.S. led strike on Syria came from longtime Trump advocate Paul Joseph Watson who tweeted:

“I guess Trump wasn’t “Putin’s puppet” after all, he was just another deep state/Neo-Con puppet. I’m officially OFF the Trump train.”

weloveyoutrump

‘You’re in violation of EVERYTHING’: D.C. on alert after cryptic warning from Putin

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The nation’s capital is on high alert following a thinly veiled threat issued Monday from Russian president Vladimir Putin.

In a statement issued by the Kremlin, Putin, angry over a lengthy list of sanctions put forth by President Donald Trump in retaliation for alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election, lashed out at the U.S., accusing U.S. officials of breaching “everything”.

“This is outrageous from the standpoint of legality and violates anything and everything,” said the Kremlin, who added it is considering “a large variety of options”.

“This is quite a new phenomenon and we are seeing the first manifestations of its negative impact,” said Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov.“Of course, it takes time to analyse it, to understand the extent of the real damage and to work out steps to improve the situation as much as possible.”

What exactly those options are, say insiders, is what is most concerning to military officials.

Putin’s statement comes after the sanctions, coupled with fears over increased conflict in Syria ravaged markets, sent Russian stocks plummeting, leading to the most devastating impact to the Russian economy in decades.

As a result, the rouble fell as much as 4.1 percent against the dollar, its largest drop since 2016.

Tensions between the U.S. and Russia reached a fever pitch last weekend when
President Donald Trump led international condemnation of a reported chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government. A visibly angry Trump warned there would be a “big price to pay” for the Syrian regime and it’s Russian and Iranian backers if reports of the alleged chemical attack were to be confirmed.

This is not the first time that Trump and Putin have gone head to head over the use of Chemical weapons in Syria. Although the two world leaders managed to work out their differences through peaceful negotiation in the past, White House insiders say Trump’s patience is quickly wearing thin.

On Sunday, Trump took to Twitter to lash out at Putin directly over the latest alleged attack, warning the Russian president that there would be a large price to pay if he finds out that Russia was at all involved.

“Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria,” the president tweeted.

“Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world.

“President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay.

“Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!”

In a separate statement, President Trump reiterated his condemnation of the attack and vowed to punish those accountable.

“If it’s Russia, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran or all of them together, we’ll figure it out,” he said.

In response to Trump’s comments, Mr Peskov said: “We are analyzing the situation. The interests of our country are seen as of paramount importance.”

trumpvsputin3

 

 

 

 

KIM TARGETS TRUMP: North Korea vows ‘ruthless’ retaliation toward America as tensions mount

Washington, D.C. — North Korea released a propaganda video on Tuesday showing President Donald Trump looking out over a graveyard full of crosses (http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/844271/World-War-3-North-Korea-v-USA-Guam-warning-video-propaganda-Kim-Jong-Un).

The video, which was paired with an ominous warning from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, criticized the president for “spouting rubbish” and parodied his frequent use of Twitter and other social media platforms.

The video also showed a figure resembling Vice President Pence consumed by flames and mocked South Korea’s “puppy-like” Defense Minister Song Young-moo for “pinning hope on that mad guy.”

“Trump spouted rubbish that if a war breaks out, it would be on the Korean Peninsula, and if thousands of people die, they would be only Koreans and Americans may sleep a sound sleep,” a statement from KCNA, North Korea’s official news agency, read on Tuesday.

In a separate statement issued by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency (http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/news/2017/08/22/0200000000AEN20170822002752315.html), the KCNA vowed to wage “ruthless” retaliation against South Korea and the U.S. in response to their participation in a series of ongoing joint military exercises.

“The U.S. will be wholly held accountable for the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by such reckless aggressive war maneuvers, as it chose a military confrontation [with North Korea],” a North Korean military spokesman told the KCNA.

In related news, the US Treasury Department announced on Tuesday new sanctions which target Chinese and Russian entities that help fund and facilitate North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

“As a result of today’s action, any property or interests in property of the designated persons in the possession or control of US persons or within the United States must be blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them,” the Treasury Department said in a released statement (https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/sm0148.aspx).

“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 Steve Mnuchin said. “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. We are taking actions consistent with UN sanctions to show that there are consequences for defying sanctions and providing support to North Korea and to deter this activity in the future.”

North Korea’s latest round of threats come on the heals of Monday’s Reuters report which revealed that two North Korean shipments bound for a Syrian chemical arms facility were recently “intercepted.”

“The panel is investigating reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation between Syria and the [North Korea],” the report read (http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-northkorea-syria-un-idUKKCN1B12G8?utm_campaign=trueAnthem:+Trending+Content&utm_content=599b6e2604d301797510cb1b&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=twitter).

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs. The Security Council has stepped up efforts in recent weeks to shut those programs down since North Korea’s recent tests of nuclear weapons and four long-range missile launches.

President Trump has heavily called on China to put more pressure on North Korea but thus far China has done little to curb the threats of it’s neighbor and ally.

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