09/08/2017 Newsnight


Analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines. Looking at Trump's North Korean diplomacy, EU expenses row, and whether the Welsh language should be protected.

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North Korea versus the USA - the language on both sides


But is there any logic to actual military action by either side?


The world woke up to what felt like a serious prospect that we'll


However, we may take heart from the fact that there


One of the problems Trump faces is, as belligerent and as inflammatory


as his rhetoric gets, it's actually pretty


We'll ask if strong words have value, or raise the chance of some


It was like pulling teeth to get information, but European expenses


were published today. Do they tell us anything we need to know?


# Ar ben waun Tredegar mae ffrwythau o bob rhyw


Is it Government's job to promote it,


and is it a help or hindrance to the nation?


And we look at electro-fishing, a way of disturbing bottom-dwelling


Yes, it's like pins and needles in your fingers.


Hello, President Trump didn't just shock the world last night,


with his words of fire and fury aimed at North Korea,


he also shocked some of his advisors apparently,


as he was ad libbing rather than giving agreed lines.


That's according to the New York Times.


But even before the President had spoken, North Korea had


issued its own threat, saying the country is carefully


examining a plan to strike the American territory of Guam.


Just more words on their side, of course.


At one level, you might worry that the words will run out,


But you might ask why it's just words, and not weapons yet?


Could it be that both sides know their own limitations in any


Our diplomatic editor Mark Urban has been working through the logic.


American carriers exercising off Korea. But these pictures were taken


in May, and none of them are there now. The President seems out of sync


with his military and his top diplomats. Today, he emphasised the


defensive nature of US precautions. I think what the President was


reaffirming his that the United States has the capability to fully


defend itself from any attack and defend our allies. And we will do


so. The American people should sleep well at night. Tillerson is in tune


with generations of American statesman who stuck to Teddy


Roosevelt's Maxim, speak softly and carry a big stick. But one reason he


can be sanguine is because America's stick is not being brandished right


now. America is not in a position to strike. It is only carrier in the


area of Korea docked in Japan at the end of an operational tour. Bombers


in Guam may have got the North's attention, but while the US has a


feud is aircraft in range that could mount a limited strike, none of the


broader preparations you would expect are visible. I don't think


there is a credible military option for the US to try to suppress North


Korea's nuclear programme. It would invite an unthinkable retaliation.


To think that Seoul, South Korea's capital, is in artillery range, to


think that US bases are in the cross hairs, to think that allies, who are


very nervous at the moment, are also in the cross hairs. One of the


problems R-Truth faces is, as belligerent and inflammatory as the


rhetoric gets, it is pretty difficult to use the stick. And


America's stick, even when brandished, is not as big as it used


to be. It could still strike North Korea, and hard. But poor aircraft


availability, reduced stocks of bombs and missiles, mean readiness


for a major conflict is poor. Add to that the vast size of North Korea's


Armed Forces, presenting hundreds of thousands of possible targets, many


pointing to the south, America's ability to control any ensuing


escalation is limited. Its Defence Secretary has said as much. General


Mattis has been public in the statements he has made about just


how significant the military risks would be going forward with any kind


of pre-emptive strike. He has made those statements on the record and


he has talked about just how brutal any kind of military activity would


be, how close Seoul is, for example. So, bereft of a big stick, or one


that could be run dished credibly, anyway, you think the President


might moderate his tone. -- brandished credibly. North Korea's


threats to the United States, if they make more, they will be met


with fire and fury, like the world has never seen. Why carry on with


such language? Maybe he is playing hard cop to China's soft? But North


Korea's nukes have changed calculation is. The idea that North


Korea's bomb is a reality, that soon it will have the ability to deliver


that bomb across the world, the idea that North Korea identifies that


bomb with its own survival and will not give it up voluntarily, it is a


simple idea, but one of the most difficult to stomach, because it


offends the whole notion of America's uncontested global


leadership and its deep commitment to inhibit in the proliferation of


what it sees as rogue states. With North Korea now threatening a US


base in NICE, the war of words may have taken on a life of its own.


Some de-escalation, at least verbal, is now vital.


We'll assess the North Korean threat shortly, but it has


focused attention on Guam - for unwelcome reasons.


Guam itself is a petite, attractive, island in the Pacific,


around 6000 miles off the coast of California.


It's only about 25 miles long, and four miles wide


Almost a third of it is actually occupied by the US military.


The population of about 160,000 has US citizenship,


but Guam is not a US state - it was nabbed by the Americans


Apart from US military, tourism is one of its main


industries, for reasons that are quite understandable.


The territory does not get to vote in US elections,


but it does have a non-voting member of the House of Representatives.


She is Madeleine Bordallo, and I spoke to her earlier


about Donald Trump's handling of North Korea.


I'm one of these where I think we can solve


Coming on with harsh words like the President did,


it's very dangerous to go through something like that.


I understand that maybe the North Korean leader did not even


understand exactly what "fire and fury" means.


I feel that we've been through threats with North Korea before.


Our former President, Obama, had to deal diplomatically with this


leader and other countries in the region.


And, you know, people say, well, people are calm on Guam.


We have a great number of military bases.


We have two major military bases on Guam and we have a large


We have the THAAD missile defence operation there,


which I was able to get a couple of years ago when these


So, we've been told by the military, by Secretary Mattis and Admiral


Harris that they were going to take good care of Guam if anything


So, I'm putting my faith in that the military will take good


You say Jim Mattis and the others, the defence establishment,


say to you on Guam, look, we'll protect you,


Not quite a part of the United States, but a territory


Well, for one thing, you say we're not part


But I feel, even though we're not, we're an insular area,


They have said, well, they're ramping up their military activity.


And now, already, we are hearing that they're beginning to ramp up.


And when they spoke to me, they always tell me, you know,


of our close proximity to North Korea.


Our island would be a very strategic area to ramp up military


THAAD, that missile protection system, does that work?


Does it give you a sense of security?


It's giving me the sense of security.


They've been through a number of tests and briefings,


and I understand that every one of the briefings has


You say you don't like this kind of tough talking that's going on.


I wonder what you think the Americans should be doing?


Because it is a problem, and it is going to be difficult


Indeed, they did try to negotiate with the North Koreans and persuade


them not to have a nuclear programme all those years ago,


What is the approach that you would take?


I don't know that this current President has done any


I don't know what kind of meetings have been set up, and everything.


But, you know, to comment about fire and fury,


It's just not making anybody comfortable


I really think, I've worked many years in politics and I believe


I think that talking out things can bring about a peaceful solution.


So what should we make of the mixed signals we're hearing from America -


I'm joined from across the Atlantic by Jon Finer.


Until January, he was chief of staff for Secretary of State John Kerry


Also with us from Washington is Peter Feaver, who held positions


on America's National Security Council under both Presidents Bush


Good evening to you. Jonathan, what would John Kerry be doing if he was


Secretary of State? He would be the best person to answer this question,


but I have to believe, as a big believer, as a secretary Kerry is,


in the power of diplomacy, even diplomacy backed by force, but to


achieve dramatic objectives, that he would be doing a version of what


secretary Tillerson has been doing and saying in recent days, making


clear the real consequences that would come to the North Korean


regime if it continues down the path it is on, but also sending


reassuring signals to our allies and keeping open the possibility of


diplomatic process to try to de-escalate the confrontation. Not


rattling the Sega with provocative statements in public. You said you


would tell them what would happen to them if they carry on, what would


happen to them? I think the deterrent messages, this is what the


messaging is about. It is about deterring bad behaviour by the North


Korean regime. They are best carried directly and privately. Not carried


in a public form, where they can very easily be misinterpreted. We


spend a lot of time and energy, I'm sure Peter can speak to this as


well, trying to interpret the statements that come out of


Pyongyang, much of which involves rhetoric that we choose to discount


because it is so over the top. But much of which we don't really know


how to understand. We are in a situation that is very unusual for


the United States. We have our own administration, not just anyone, but


our own President, that are very difficult, not just for the rest of


the world or even Americans to interpret, but, much more of


concern, for the North Korean government to interpret. That can


lead to misunderstandings. The only thing worse than choosing to go to


war in this situation would be stumbling into a war that neither


side wants. Peter, could there be strategy or clever tactics in this


kind of rhetoric that we had from Donald Trump yesterday? The fact it


was rather different to the rhetoric from Rex Tillerson, good cop, bad


cop, I don't know what is going on. Is something clever going on? There


are some plausible rationales. The President could be saying we have


tried for 30 years, moderate rhetoric, and it hasn't worked,


let's try some source for the goose. The language that the President used


against Kim Jong-un is the kind of language you hear from North


Koreans. It could also be the case that he is trying to rattle the


Chinese, who very much fear this escalation spiral that John was


talking about, and who have a lot of Lovren Joe Byrne North Korea. He


could be trying to alarm the Chinese into taking action on economic


sanctions rant. -- they have a lot of leveraged over North Korea. The


President took his own national security team by surprise with his


rhetoric. So it is clear that the team had not drafted this rhetoric.


If there was this calculation, it was the President's own.


Does confusion or mixed messaging ever have a place to play in dealing


with a adversary? Well President Trump believes the United States has


been too predictable and during the campaign he criticised President


Obama for being too predictable, predictable that he would make


concessions he said. Trump was unpredictable and there is the mad


men theory that president Nixon was said to develop, where Kissinger


would meet with foreign leader, saying, you can trust me, but we


don't know what president Nixon will do. But it is a very dangerous game


to play and it is best done if all the team has gamed it out. Have


thought about it. Jonathan, the, you mentioned the risk of a


miscalculation that causes a mistake into conflict. Talk us through that


and how it could occur in the worst case? I think there are two


dangerous scenarios for the United States, the president is a proponent


of the theory strategic ambiguity, but that only works if there is a


strategy behind it and there is a plan to implement on and take


advantage of the ambiguous situation. The risk is that the


president makes these statements and the North Koreans say it is just


bluster and continue and call the president's bluff and then the


credibility of the president's threats is diminished or the North


Koreans take it too seriously and believe he is on the cusp of


launching an attack and decide it is in their best interest to move first


and you are in this conflict that neither sides wants. Because it is


in neither sides' interest to go to war, but it happens any way. At this


stage, what is the best way to de-escalate this and settle it down


and get back to where we were three years ago? Well there is two things


that are concerning about where we are now. First, the administration


has said that it is intolerable that North Korea possesses a nuclear


weapon. Well, they already possess one. So that kind of language,


declaring what is already a fact intolerable backs the president into


a corner. The second thing is the president threatened North Korea


with more if North Korea continued to make verbal threats. Well verbal


threats is the daily activity of the North Korean Government. I think he


would have been wiser to narrow it down to behaviour like missile


launches. The president may have backed himself into a corner. What


could happen... We have to leave it there. Thank you both very much


indeed. At a time when elites are viewed


rather suspiciously, those in power need to be careful


that their official expenses do not MPs here have never quite


recovered since their So, is the EU Commission


about to get a caning for its expenses, two months


of which were published today? The Commission has been coy


about releasing more data than that of January and February 2016,


and that was forced out of them after a complaint


to the European Ombudsman. Among the items we now know about,


a 27,000 euro bill for a two-day In fairness, there were nine


of them in the delegation. At a commission press conference


today, the spokeswoman was put These details were obtained by a


Spanish NGO, why doesn't the commission make the expenses public?


We do publish mission expenses when ever we are asked to provide


information. You have the whole budget of the EU that contains a


section with expenses, namely heading five, that is available to


you how much we spend. Helen Darbishire is the executive


director of Access Info Europe, the NGO which has been pushing


the European Commission for three John Redwood is the Conservative MP


for Woking and is with me. Give us the back ground and how hard


it was and what efforts you had to go to and what stalling there was


when you asked for the expenses? Good evening, Evan. We first filed a


request about three years ago. We realised that no one had asked for


this information and to correct what the spokesperson said in the


conference today, the information isn't actually available. We used


the equivalent of the EU's equivalent of the British Freedom of


Information Act and asked for this. We got some total numbers at first.


But there was a reluctance to give us the details of expenditure. So we


have had quite a battle trying to use arguments as to why we should be


given this and finally we have been given the ex-pensions for the first


two -- expenses for the first two months of 2016. We asked for, in


fact 120 requesters asked for the expenses of of 2016. John Redwood,


are you shocked by this, we have the private jet to Italy. There was a


bill for foreign affairs representative to get to a summit.


Does that shock you? No, I suspected that was going on all along. I


remember when I negotiated for Britain many years ago I went on the


normal public transport fare, but there was a lot of Executive jets,


including one for commissioners. So it doesn't surprise me. All the time


British taxpayers are helping to pay for the bill as we will until we


leave. Its a matter of concern and they should be as transparent as the


United Kingdom Government has to be in telling people where the money is


spent and why. Helen, were you shocked when you saw the figures,


only the two months and we don't know if it was a high or low month,


did you think they looked high? No, I didn't think they're that high


actually. I did a comparison with David Cameron's expenditure for the


same period and whereas for the commissioner the average is b about


one and half thousand, David Cameron was four and a half. Theresa May's


in yo 17 are over ?6,000 a mission. It is important to keep a


perspective, I don't know how many people have asked how much did


Theresa May's trip to visit Donald Trump cost? It cost about ?43,000


and includes taking an RAF plane for which the British taxpayer has to


pay. So these expenses are quite... Reasonable and in line with what we


would be expecting Government officials around Europe to be paying


for similar kinds of trips. Is that fair, because actually, yeah,


British ministers do fly on RAF planes, they go to North Holt and


jump on a Government plane. It not a comparison to compare a head of a


Government with a commissioner, a commissioner is a senior official,


the heads of state and governments are the senior people in the EU. And


we don't send our senior officials or ministers around on anything


other than public transport flights at normal fares. But it is not a


major item. I think the bigger item is the lack of transparency and that


these are very big budgets and we are having to pay a lot for them and


one of main reasons people voted to leave the EU, we want that money


back, because we need it for hospitals and social care and other


thins where we would like to spend more and the sooner we are out, the


sooner we get that money back and it is important we don't go on paying


for this. Helen, this is going to get into the Brexit debate, most


people will tend to feel, whatever the figures, they are high, they may


hear you say it is normal, but people say you never need to take a


private jet. Just go the next day. I think that the question of the


amount, it is a very small amount. It is about ?90,000 per country that


has been contributed to the costs of these expenses and there haven't


been that many private jets used. We see a lot of ordinary planes being


taken as well. I do agree the transparency issue is important and


it is unfortunately that the commission didn't make this


information public sooner. It is the lack of transparency that can lead


to a skewed debate about what is actually the European does, the


value and the way it is working within pretty reasonable budgets to


do everything it does. What we are doing now from access info Europe is


calling on the commission to step up and make public all of this


information and put it online so that any citizen can check and see


how much is being spent. As the British Government does. Thank you


both very much. We did ask for someone


from the European Commission to join us tonight, but nobody


was available. In a statement, they said private


air travel was only allowed for Commissioners when no commercial


alternative was available and that Commissioners had only made


28 private 'air taxi' The Welsh Government has set out


plans to change the way it promotes This is a sensitive area of public


policy and inevitably any Those keen on Welsh feel that


one innocuous-sounding proposal to abolish the job


of Welsh Language Commissioner and replace it with


a Welsh Language Commission is a threat to the identity


and culture of Welsh speakers. The Government has talked


of the bureaucracy of the current So should they be trying to make


life easier for non-Welsh companies, or should they be doing more


for the language? Before we discuss that,


let us infuse some In 1901, half the population


of Wales could speak the language. Now the figure


is not even a quarter - And only around half of those people


are fluent in Welsh. According to the official census


figures, all the Welsh speakers What is true though,


is that there's been growth in Welsh speaking since the introduction


of the Welsh Language Act in 1993. With me now is Ruth Dawson,


Wales Editor of The Conversation news website, and the novelist


Julian Ruck is in Carmarthen. Ruth, you're, you feel strongly


about Welsh, how many v how much of it do you speak. Not very much. Can


I do the basics. What is the importance of it as a small Welsh


speaker, a Welsh person? It is a huge part of the culture and I wish


I could speak more Welsh and I think the Government drive is fantastic


for showing how important the language is for the people of Wales.


I just like I say, I wish I could speak more myself! Is it possible


that actually most people in Wales are a bit like Ruth, they sort of


believe in the language, sfren they don't really -- esfren nay don't


really speak it. Let me firstly say I have nothing against a Welsh


speaker, but the statistics that you use, they don't, they cloud over


whether someone can read or write the language. Now, as far as I'm


concerned, the expense to the taxpayer that is the English


taxpayer ass well as the Welsh is far outraged by the number of people


who can speak it. You're talking about 150 odd million a year. Now,


would say to someone who is dependent on the health service that


you have got to wait because X, YZ, they won't with p be happy if they


know the money is going to Welsh language. You know, it is, nobody


has mentioned in the news reports about Mary Hughes the Welsh language


commissioner being an ex-chair woman of the Welsh Language Society. Now,


that is a conflict of interest and shouldn't be allowed. But that is


the extent of the situation. Is this a classic liberal position,


she says nobody should be discouraged from speaking Welsh,


everybody should be allowed to speak Welsh, and we will see how many


people choose to speak it, how many have it as a hobby, how many speak


it as their main language, how companies independently decide how


to speak it. Is there not something to be said for that? In an ideal


world, everybody would be left to their own devices and pick up Welsh


naturally and get on with it. They might choose not to? They might


think, it is not to me, why do I need to pick it up, if they don't


want to? Languages are not the easiest thing to learn. But I do


think that people need help. I mean, for as long as I've been alive, the


Welsh government and people of Wales have been encouraged to speak Welsh.


I had it at school, but I didn't pick up enough of it, my education


was not enough, and then is to be a bigger push to make sure more people


are using the language every day. There is the key. You can go to a


Welsh medium school and come out of it, and you cannot speak Welsh. What


is the point in all of the money? It's nonsense. S4C is down, radio


Cymru is down, all of it is down. The money they are pumping in is not


making more people speak Welsh, that is a fact. I think you will find


across the board in Wales, a lot of English-language Welsh media has


lost its audience as well. There are new forms of Welsh language media,


especially online, that are building up a new audience, especially in


that category. Is there an issue around economic development? Is it a


deterrent to English companies, or international companies, that have


no Welsh speakers at all, in investing in Wales, putting


something in Wales, if they are thinking, my goodness, we are going


to have all of these Welsh language issues? If we are deciding between a


Welsh region or an English region, it could tip the balance? I can't


speak from experience, but I don't think that is the case. The Welsh


government has done a lot of work to encourage international companies to


come to Wales. They don't see it as a barrier at all. Hold on, this is a


nationalist argument. Nationalism turns companies, whether they be


small, medium or large, it turns them away. You say to a company,


come and work in Wales, and then you give them a massive bill to convert


everything to Welsh. They are going to take a hike. And it is a hike


left. Thank you very much indeed. If you happened to be


a fish that likes to dwell at the bottom of the north sea -


like plaice or sole - which do you think you'd prefer,


as a way of being raised from the sea bed and scooped


into a net to be caught Would you opt to be dragged up


into the net by a huge metal cable, which is the current and legal


method of catching Or would you opt to be disturbed


by an electric shock, that stirs you from the depths,


into the human food chain? Well, this latter method is called


pulse fishing, or electro fishing, and although illegal in the EU,


a number of experimental licenses So many, in fact, that the vast


majority of the commercial Dutch beam-trawling fleet


now "electro-fish". It's not to the liking of British


fishermen and environmentalists. James Clayton went to


the Netherlands to find out more about this experimental


form of fishing. You don't really associate


disruptive innovation with fishing. However, what's going


on in the North Sea could well But there's a snag - the technique


is incredibly controversial and Welcome to pulse or


electro-fishing - the saviour of fishing, or the fracking


of the ocean, depending on your Den Helder on the northern tip


of the Netherlands and trawlers are making their weekly


trip back to port to deliver their For hundreds of years,


these boats used a method Large chains are dragged


behind the boat on the seabed to raise mainly flat fish


from under the sand. Greenpeace has described


this traditional beam-trawling method


as one of the most The friction of these chains means


that fishermen need a lot of diesel So much so in fact that


with high oil prices a decade ago, many trawlermen


went out of business. But the Dutch are an innovative


bunch and a group of locals came up with a plan -


rather than dredging up the bottom, they would simply pass an electric


field over the surface and stun


the fish up from the bottom. It's not like you put


your fingers in. Pim Visser represents


some of the fishermen. They just tow these electrodes


just over the bottom. This doesn't have the current


and this has the current. You might be thinking this kind


of fishing must be regulated in The catching of marine


organisms using methods incorporating the use


of explosives, poisoning or stupefying substances or electric


currents shall be prohibited. But pulse fishing


is allowed under an experimental licence, with research


continuing into its short and undertaking research


into pulse fishing. We have done a lot of experiments


on a suite of organisms ranging from ragworm


to shellfish, fish species, sharks and rays and in


general we don't very, we don't find an effect,


or very limited effect and there are some exceptions


and the one exception You have a larger cod,


it is not so much the smaller cod, when you have larger cod,


then in some instances Apparently, for that size


of cod, the electric stimulation is too much


and then their muscles,


their own muscles break the spine. They aren't actually electrocuted


and the Dutch are so confident the technology is safe they rigged


up a rather unscientific experiment. You can just put your hand in,


it is absolutely, this is the pulse. Everything about this


looks slightly... Fine, it is just


electrodes and water. Yes, it's sort of like


pins and needles. Open and close your hand and you can


feel the difference. The bigger you are,


the more you get. So the issue is if you were a big


cod, and you run past that, then your body starts going


into spasm and things like that? The whole week they


have about 20 cods. 40 kilograms of cod,


compared to tonnes of plaice and sole is not a lot


in the grand scheme of things and there are other good arguments


to say that pulse fishing is more environmentally friendly


than beam fishing. The carbon emissions are


significantly lower and the sea bed But many environmentalists


aren't happy. It's possible that it


is better than beam trawling and influenza is better


than bubonic plague! Beam trawling is so


fantastically damaging that it would be hard to conceive


of anything worse than that. And what we have been told


is this is an experiment. It is an experiment


in the same way that Japanese scientific whaling


is a scientific experiment - how many whales can we bring


on board and what do they taste like once


we have caught them? The problem with this experiment


is there is no control area. There is no way of


assessing the results The Dutch argue that


the research they have conducted over many years into pulse


fishing is scientifically rigorous. However - and this is important -


it is still in the research phase. So if you look at all the trawlers


here, one, two, three, four, five, are just coming into


the dock this morning. And it begs the question -


how many trawlers do you need to do At the moment there are about 79


vessels that fish with the pulse gear and strictly speaking


for research purposes, you don't But again, the reason why


the Dutch Government has decided to do it in this manner,


I think you have to ask them. We, as the international community,


share a responsibility for But despite the main


research institute Government told Newsnight:


experimental trawlers, the Dutch We think


the research is fine and the extra research will only underpin


what we have already found. For Dutch fishermen,


pulse fishing has been One told me a few years


ago he was earning about 30,000 euros and he now


takes home 70,000. 80% of the Dutch beam trawling fleet


have now converted to pulse fishing and the research


period will end in 2019. At which point, the EU


will decide whether to But inevitably there are questions


about whether the Dutch Government has allowed en masse


a questionable form of fishing to operate in the North Sea


for in part commercial reasons. But although the weather


is not uniformly bright, it is still summer -


so it's still Proms season. The last few weeks we've been


bringing the Proms to you, Tonight we have the acclaimed German


cellist Alban Gerhardt, playing the Sarabande


from Bach's Sixth Cello Suite. He'll be at the Royal


Albert Hall tomorrow. His cello is not far off being as


old as Bach himself, it has been around for about 300 years.


With Evan Davis and looking at Trump's North Korean diplomacy, EU expenses row, and whether the Welsh language be protected. Plus an exploration of the rights and wrongs of 'electro-fishing'.

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