The United States is arguing that a retaliatory attack on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime could discourage North Korea from employing its own chemical arsenal in regional conflicts, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.
Washington has been trying to persuade China to back a U.S. plan to carry out limited missile strikes against the Syrian military as punishment for its widely assumed large-scale Aug. 21 sarin gas attack on Syrian civilians just outside of Damascus.
A punishing military assault on the Assad regime will strengthen the global norm against the use of chemical weapons and send an important message to other countries in possession of such arms, U.S. Undersecretary for Defense Policy James Miller said during trip to Beijing.
“I emphasized the massive chemical weapons arsenal that North Korea has and that we didn’t want to live in a world in which North Korea felt that the threshold for chemical weapons usage had been lowered,” Miller told journalists in describing his Monday meeting with Wang Guanzhong, the People’s Liberation Army’s deputy chief of staff.
It is very much to China’s benefit that there is a “strong response to Assad’s clear and massive use of chemical weapons,” Miller said he told the Chinese military official.
The Chinese government is working with Russia to impede any U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against Syria.
North Korea is believed to hold a substantial chemical arsenal, measuring between 2,500 and 5,000 metric tons of deadly poisons such as sarin nerve agent, mustard gas, hydrogen cyanide and phosgene, according to previous reports. Pyongyang has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the production, possession and usage of chemical arms.
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The White House on Wednesday laid out its plan for tax reform, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying it would be "the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country." The tax code would be broken down into just three tax brackets, with the highest personal income tax rate cut from 39.6 percent to 35 percent. The plan would also slash the tax rate on corporations and small businesses from 35 percent to 15 percent. "The White House plan is a set of principles with few details, but it’s designed to be the starting point of a major push to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive tax reform package this year," said National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn.
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The Michael Flynn story is not going away for the White House as it tries to refocus its attention. The White House has denied requests from the House Oversight Committee for information and documents regarding payments that the former national security adviser received from Russian state television station RT and Russian firms. House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz and ranking member Elijah Cummings also said that Flynn failed to report these payments on his security clearance application. White House legislative director Marc Short argued that the documents requested are either not in the possession of the White House or contain sensitive information he believes is not applicable to the committee's stated investigation.
The U.S. deployed "F-35 joint strike fighters" to Estonia on Tuesday. The "jets will stay in Estonia for several weeks and will be a part of training flights with U.S. and other NATO air forces." The move comes at a time of high tension between the U.S. and Estonia's neighbor, Russia. The two nations have been at odds over a number of issues recently, most of all being Vladimir Putin's support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in light of Assad's chemical weapons attack on his own people in the midst of a civil war.