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TSS – Oil & Gas Industry

  • U.S. thanks Taiwan for sanctions on oil sales to North Korea
    on January 18, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    The United States expressed gratitude to Taiwan Wednesday for imposing sanctions on a Taiwanese man and overseas companies he is thought to control for their alleged involvement in selling oil to North Korea in violation of United Nations sanctions imposed last year. […]

  • Collected Department Releases: Remarks on The Way Forward for the United States Regarding Syria
    on January 17, 2018 at 11:41 pm

    Remarks Rex W. Tillerson Secretary of State Hoover Institute at Stanford University Stanford, CA January 17, 2018 SECRETARY TILLERSON: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. Well, good morning. And I really, really appreciate this opportunity to swing down to Stanford while I was out on the West Coast and particularly to address this group. And I want to thank Stanford and the Hoover Institution and the international studies group for allowing me to speak to you this morning. I have familiarity with the Hoover Institution; I’ve spoken at some of their events in the past in my prior life, and it has consistently produced great, principled scholarship that makes the calls for representative government, private enterprise, and protecting the American way of life right at the center of your activities, and very important topics that we spend our time on. And in that regard, you certainly have a true advocate in your ranks: my friend, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, who – I don’t know if she takes responsibility for this situation she got me into or not, but I – (laughter) – I hold her partially accountable anyway. And – but I appreciate Condi’s advice and counsel. When you arrive at the Secretary of State’s desk, I was looking for the how-to manual; there wasn’t one there. So she’s been a great source of help and inspiration to me. And I also want to acknowledge the other co-host, one of our nation’s most dedicated and gifted public servants, certainly of the 20th century: former Secretary George Shultz. And George and I have known each other a long time as well, and I’m a great admirer of his work as well. I’ve just come from a ministerial meeting in Vancouver, in which a number of nations discussed how to better implement our maximum pressure campaign against North Korea. The United States and our allies are and continue to be united in continuing this campaign until North Korea takes meaningful steps toward denuclearization. We all agreed – all of us – that we will not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea. From Vancouver I made a quick swing down here to California. And I appreciated Dr. Rice’s help in arranging this for me on somewhat short notice. There are some people back in Washington that are suspicious I’m escaping the bad weather today to just come down here, but I am delighted to be here. The topic and the subject of my remarks today is to talk with you about the way forward for the United States in Syria. I’m going to start by giving you a kind of a broad historical and political context for what are some very difficult situations facing the Syrian people, and they raise concerns for all of the international powers as well. Then I want to describe why it is crucial to our national defense to maintain a military and diplomatic presence in Syria, to help bring an end to that conflict, and assist the Syrian people as they chart a course to achieve a new political future. And then lastly, I want to detail the steps this administration is taking to achieve a stable, unified, and independent Syria, free of terrorist threats and free of weapons of mass destruction. Then, as indicated, Dr. Rice and I will have a little conversation. For nearly 50 years, the Syrian people have suffered under the dictatorship of Hafez al-Assad and his son Bashar al-Assad. The nature of the Assad regime, like that of its sponsor Iran, is malignant. It has promoted state terror. It has empowered groups that kill American soldiers, such as al-Qaida. It has backed Hizballah and Hamas. And it has violently suppressed political opposition. Bashar al-Assad’s grand strategy, to the extent he has one beyond his own survival, includes hosting some of the most radical terrorist elements in the region and using them to destabilize his neighbors. Assad’s regime is corrupt, and his methods of governance and economic development have increasingly excluded certain ethnic and religious groups. His human rights record is notorious the world over. Such oppression cannot persist forever. And over the years, latent anger built up within the country, and many Syrians rose up and opposed Assad’s rule. Within the days of what began as peaceful demonstrations that swept Syria in 2011, Assad and his regime responded to his own people with bullets and jail sentences. Since that time, the story of Syria has been one of a humanitarian catastrophe. Up to half a million Syrians have died. Over 5.4 million Syrians are refugees, and 6.1 million are internally displaced persons, or IDPs. And as a result of conflict between regime and opposition forces, whole cities have been destroyed. It will take years to rebuild an entire nation. Previous American efforts to halt the conflict have been ineffective. When Assad used chemical weapons on his own people in 2013, in defiance of an American red line threat to retaliate, U.S. inaction emboldened the regime to further disregard civilian lives. In April of last year, the Trump administration responded to Assad’s use of sarin nerve agent on civilians with cruise missile strikes that destroyed 20 percent of Assad’s air force. We did this to degrade the Syrian military’s ability to conduct further chemical weapons attacks, to protect innocent civilians, and to dissuade the Syrian regime from further use or proliferation of chemical weapons. The United States takes chemical weapons threats seriously, and we cannot stand idly by and allow their use to become regularized. We will continue to seek accountability and justice for the victims of that attack. In 2012, the Assad regime military forces began to struggle badly against armed opposition. The regime was soon bolstered through the assistance of Iranian-backed fighting forces. But despite this help, by August of 2015, Syrian rebel forces had made substantial progress against Assad’s regime. Fearing for his own survival, Assad then appealed to Russia, his longtime ally, for help. Russia intervened to save the regime, largely by providing increased air power, intelligence, and arms support. In December of 2016, the key city of Aleppo fell to the regime after a brutal campaign that essentially destroyed that city, which had a population over two million people before the war. This symbolized the regime’s ruthless determination to regain momentum in the conflict. It also led to – Assad to wrongly think that he would maintain power without addressing the Syrian regime’s – the Syrian people’s legitimate grievances. The civil war in Syria was horrific in and of itself. But Syria was thrown into an even greater state of turmoil with the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. This was an aspiring terror-state inside the borders of Iraq and Syria. The conflict between the regime and various opposition groups fighting to change Assad’s grip on power created the conditions for the rapid expansion of ISIS in 2013 and 2014. ISIS originally emerged from the ashes of al-Qaida in Iraq, a group Assad had covertly backed. Evidence suggests Assad also abetted ISIS by releasing known terrorists from Syrian prisons and turning a blind eye to ISIS’s growth. ISIS exploited the instability and lack of centralized authority in Syria to set up what it falsely claimed was a “caliphate,” with the Syrian city of Raqqa as its capital. Eventually, ISIS expanded to possess at its height a territory – an amount of territory roughly equivalent to the size of the United Kingdom, and a significant fighting force. Flush with cash from looted banks and in control of oil fields in Syria and Iraq, ISIS had all the elements to sustain itself and carry out attacks on the U.S. homeland and those of our allies. The establishment of a radical terror-state attracted thousands of jihadists from over 100 countries, and motivated other terrorists around the world to commit attacks where they live. In the wake of the rise of ISIS, millions fled their homes, villages, and cities to escape the brutal regime’s ethnic cleansing, resulting in massive refugee flows into the neighboring countries and as far as Europe and Scandinavia. By the middle of 2014, ISIS had a stable base of operations in Syria and significant revenue streams to fund, plan, inspire, and direct attacks against targets in the West and against our regional allies. It was using Syria to build chemical weapons for use against our partners. Recognizing the destructive power of a strengthening terrorist organization, America focused on a military defeat of ISIS. In spite of the threat ISIS posed in Syria, Assad focused instead on fighting the Syrian opposition, even with Iranian and Russian military support at his back. The Trump administration’s counterterrorism policy is quite simple. It is to protect Americans at home and abroad from attacks by terrorists. Central to this policy is to deny terrorist and terrorist organizations the opportunity to organize, raise money, recruit fighters, train, plan, and execute attacks. When he took office, President Trump took decisive action to accelerate the gains that were being made in Syria and Iraq. He directed Secretary of Defense Mattis to present within 30 days a new plan for defeating ISIS. The President quickly approved that plan. He directed a pace of operations that would achieve decisive results quickly, delegating greater authority to American commanders in the field, and he gave our military leaders more freedom to determine and apply the tactics that would best lead to ISIS’s defeat. Today, nearly all territory in Iraq and Syria once controlled by ISIS, or approximately 98 percent of all of that once United Kingdom-sized territory, has been liberated, and ISIS has not been able to regain one foot of that ground. ISIS’s physical “caliphate” of Raqqa is destroyed. The liberated capital of the caliphate no longer serves as a magnet for those hoping to build a terrorist empire. Approximately 3.2 million Syrians and 4.5 million Iraqis have been freed from the tyranny of ISIS. Over 3 million internally displaced Iraqis are now back home, and Mosul, the caliphate’s second capital city in Iraq and one of Iraq’s largest cities, is completely clear of ISIS. In Iraq, for the first time since the beginning of the crisis in December of 2013, there are more Iraqis going home than there are that are still displaced. As we survey Syria today, we see the big picture, a situation characterized by principally three factors: ISIS is substantially, but not completely defeated. The Assad regime controls about half of Syria’s territory and its population. And continued strategic threats to the U.S. from not just ISIS and al-Qaida, but from others persist. And this threat I’m referring to is principally Iran. As part of its strategy to create a northern arch, stretching from Iran to Lebanon and the Mediterranean, Iran has dramatically strengthened its presence in Syria by deploying Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops; supporting Lebanese Hizballah; and importing proxy forces from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere. Through its position in Syria, Iran is positioning to continue attacking U.S. interests, our allies, and personnel in the region. It is spending billions of dollars a year to prop up Assad and wage proxy wars at the expense of supporting its own people. Additionally, the unresolved plight of millions of Syrian refugees and IDPs remains a humanitarian crisis. The catastrophic state of affairs is directly related to the continued lack of security and legitimate governance in Syria itself. Assad has gassed his own people, he has barrel bombed entire villages and urban neighborhoods, and repeatedly undermined any chance for a peaceful resolution of political differences. Those abuses continue to this day, as seen in recent civilian casualties in East Ghouta and Idlib Governance[1]. There is no way to effectively facilitate a large-scale safe and voluntary return of refugees without a political solution. In short, Syria remains a source of severe strategic threats, and a major challenge for our diplomacy. But the United States will continue to remain engaged as a means to protect our own national security interest. The United States desires five key end states for Syria: First, ISIS and al-Qaida in Syria suffer an enduring defeat, do not present a threat to the homeland, and do not resurface in a new form; that Syria never again serves as a platform or safe haven for terrorists to organize, recruit, finance, train and carry out attacks on American citizens at home or abroad or against our allies. Second, the underlying conflict between the Syrian people and the Assad regime is resolved through a UN-led political process prescribed in UN Security Council Resolution 2254, and a stable, unified, independent Syria, under post-Assad leadership, is functioning as a state. Third, Iranian influence in Syria is diminished, their dreams of a northern arch are denied, and Syria’s neighbors are secure from all threats emanating from Syria. Fourth, conditions are created so that the refugees and IDPs can begin to safely and voluntarily return to Syria. And fifth, Syria is free of weapons of mass destruction. The Trump administration is implementing a new strategy to achieve these end states. This process largely entails increased diplomatic action on the heels of our ongoing military successes. Our diplomatic efforts will be characterized by stabilization initiatives and a new emphasis on the political solution to the Syrian conflict. But let us be clear: The United States will maintain a military presence in Syria focused on ensuring ISIS cannot re-emerge. Our military mission in Syria will remain conditions-based. We cannot make the same mistakes that were made in 2011 when a premature departure from Iraq allowed al-Qaida in Iraq to survive and eventually morph into ISIS. It was that vacuum that allowed ISIS and other terrorist organizations to wreak havoc on the country. And it gave ISIS a safe haven to plan attacks against Americans and our allies. We cannot allow history to repeat itself in Syria. ISIS presently has one foot in the grave, and by maintaining an American military presence in Syria until the full and complete defeat of ISIS is achieved, it will soon have two. We understand that some Americans are skeptical of continued involvement in Syria and question the benefits of maintaining a presence in such a troubled country. However, it is vital for the United States to remain engaged in Syria for several reasons: Ungoverned spaces, especially in conflict zones, are breeding grounds for ISIS and other terrorist organizations. The fight against ISIS is not over. There are bands of ISIS fighters who are already beginning to wage an insurgency. We and our allies will hunt them down and kill them or capture them. Similarly, we must persist in Syria to thwart al-Qaida, which still has a substantial presence and base of operations in northwest Syria. As in the years before 9/11, al-Qaida is eager to create a sanctuary to plan and launch attacks on the West. Although ISIS is the terrorist group that has dominated the headlines most in the last few years, al-Qaida is still a grave threat and is looking to reconstitute in new and powerful ways. Additionally, a total withdrawal of American personnel at this time would restore Assad and continue his brutal treatment against his own people. A murderer of his own people cannot generate the trust required for long-term stability. A stable, unified, and independent Syria ultimately requires post-Assad leadership in order to be successful. Continued U.S. presence to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS will also help pave the way for legitimate local civil authorities to exercise responsible governance of their liberated areas. The departure of Assad through the UN-led Geneva process will create the conditions for a durable peace within Syria and security along the borders for Syria’s neighbors. U.S. disengagement from Syria would provide Iran the opportunity to further strengthen its position in Syria. As we have seen from Iran’s proxy wars and public announcements, Iran seeks dominance in the Middle East and the destruction of our ally, Israel. As a destabilized nation and one bordering Israel, Syria presents an opportunity that Iran is all too eager to exploit. And finally, consistent with our values, America has the opportunity to help a people which has suffered greatly. We must give Syrians a chance to return home and rebuild their lives. The safe and voluntary return of Syrian refugees serves the security interests of the United States, our allies, and our partners. To relieve the enormous pressure of refugee flows on the surrounding region and on Europe, conditions must be created for these refugees to safely and voluntarily return home. It will be impossible to ensure stability on one end of the Mediterranean, in Europe, if chaos and injustice prevail on the other end, in Syria. The United States, along with its allies and partners, will undertake the following steps to bring stability and peace to Syria: First, stabilization initiatives in liberated areas are essential to making sure that life can return to normal and ISIS does not re-emerge. Stabilization initiatives consist of essential measures such as clearing unexploded land mines left behind by ISIS, allowing hospitals to reopen, restoring water and electricity services, and getting boys and girls back in school. The approach has proved successful in Iraq, where millions of Iraqis have returned to their homes. In Syria, however, unlike in Iraq, we do not have a national government partner for stabilization efforts, so we must work with others. As such, there is a great deal of difficulty to them. Since May, the United States has deployed additional diplomats to the affected areas in Syria, working with the United Nations, our partners in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, and various nongovernmental organizations. Our work to help local and regional authorities provide services to liberated areas builds trust between local populations and local leaders who are returning. Terrorists thrive under conditions that allow them to peddle their warped and hateful messages to vulnerable people in conflict-stricken areas. Our stabilization efforts will help those people turn away from the prospect of terrorism and toward integration in their local communities. We must be clear: “Stabilization” is not a synonym for open-ended nation-building or a synonym for reconstruction. But it is essential. No party in the Syrian conflict is capable of victory or stabilizing the country via military means alone. Our military presence is backed by State Department and USAID teams who are already working with local authorities to help liberated peoples stabilize their own communities. Simultaneous with stabilization efforts, de-escalating the overall conflict is also a critical step to creating the conditions for a post-Assad political settlement. Since July, the United States has worked with Russia and Jordan to establish the de-escalation area in the southwest part of Syria. It has achieved a ceasefire, ended indiscriminate bombing of civilian populations, and with some few exceptions, has thus far held up well. The agreement in the southwest also addresses Israel’s security by requiring Iranian-backed militias, most notably Hizballah, to move away from Israel’s border. We need Russia to continue to work with the United States and Jordan to enforce this de-escalation area. If it does, the resulting cessation of regime-opposition hostilities will allow for the safe delivery of humanitarian aid, create the conditions for the safe and voluntary return of IDPs and refugees, and provide the Syrian people the security to start rebuilding areas scarred by conflict. Our efforts have been – have helped refugees and IDPs return into the southwest de-escalation areas from where they had taken refuge in Jordan, and overall, an estimated 715,000 Syrians in total, including 50,000 Syrians from abroad, returned to their homes in 2017. These early but positive trends can increase through the continuation of de-escalation efforts not just in the southwest, but elsewhere. On counterterrorism, we will continue to work with allies and partners, such as Turkey, to address the terror threat in Idlib and address Turkey’s concern with PKK terrorists elsewhere. Al-Qaida is attempting to re-establish a base of operation for itself in Idlib. We are actively developing the best option to neutralize this threat in conjunction with allies and partners. The United States is vigorously supporting UN efforts to achieve the political solution under UN Security Council Resolution 2254. This is the political framework for peace and stability in a unified Syria which has already been agreed upon by members of the UN Security Council. Specifically, we will work through what is known as the Geneva process, supporting UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura in his efforts. The Assad regime clearly looks to Russia as a guarantor of its security. Russia therefore has a meaningful role to play in persuading the Assad regime to engage constructively in the Geneva process. Beyond Russia’s own vote to support UNSCR 2254, President Putin reaffirmed Russia’s commitment to Geneva in his joint statement with President Trump issued from Da Nang, Vietnam last November. The United States and Russia have worked together on the southwest de-escalation area to success, and we have established deconfliction arrangements around the Euphrates River Valley to ensure the safety of our respective forces. Russia must now follow through on the commitment our presidents made last November to find an ultimate solution through the UN-led Geneva process. One of the ways Russia can do that is to exert its unique leverage on the Syrian regime, which itself has agreed to participate in the Geneva process. Russia must put new levels of pressure on the regime to not just show up in Geneva but to credibly engage with the UN’s efforts and implement agreed outcomes. The United States, the EU, and regional partners will not provide international reconstruction assistance to any area under control of the Assad regime. We ask all stakeholders in Syria’s future to do the same. We will discourage economic relationships between the Assad regime and any other country. Instead, we will encourage international assistance to rebuild areas the global coalition and its local partners have liberated from ISIS. Once Assad is gone from power, the United States will gladly encourage the normalization of economic relationships between Syria and other nations. The United States calls on all nations to exercise discipline in economically pressuring Assad and rebuilding Syria after a political transition. Our expectation is that the desire for a return to normal life and these tools of pressure will help rally the Syrian people and individuals within the regime to compel Assad to step aside. UNSCR 2254 also calls for UN-supervised free elections in Syria. The United States believes that free and transparent elections, to include the participation of the Syrian diaspora who have been displaced – all those who were forced to flee the conflict – will result in the permanent departure of Assad and his family from power. This process will take time, and we urge patience in the departure of Assad and the establishment of new leadership. Responsible change may not come as immediate as some hope for, but rather through an incremental process of constitutional reform, UN-supervised elections – but that change will come. The United States recognizes and honors the great sacrifices the Syrian Democratic Forces have made in liberating Syrians from ISIS, but its victories on the battlefield do not solve the challenge of local governance and representation for people of eastern and northern Syria. Interim local political arrangements that give voice to all groups and ethnicities supportive of Syria’s broader political transition must emerge with international support. Any interim arrangements must be truly representative and must not threaten any of Syria’s neighboring states. Similarly, the voices of Syrians from these regions must be heard in Geneva and in the broader discussion about Syria’s future. On these points, the United States hears and takes seriously the concerns of our NATO ally Turkey. We recognize the humanitarian contributions and military sacrifices Turkey has made towards defeating ISIS, towards their support of millions of Syrian refugees, and stabilizing areas of Syria it has helped liberate. We must have Turkey’s close cooperation in achieving a new future for Syria that ensures security for Syria’s neighbors. Finally, reducing and expelling malicious Iranian influence from Syria depends on a democratic Syria. For many years, Syria under Bashar al-Assad has been a client state of Iran. A Syrian central government that is not under the control of Assad will have new legitimacy to assert its authority over the country. The reassertion of national sovereignty by a new government, along with de-escalation efforts and new flows of international aid, will lower violence, set better conditions for stability, and speed up the departure of foreign fighters. We recognize Syria presents many complexities. Our proposed solutions will not be easy to achieve. But it is necessary to proceed in these ways for the sake of our security and that of our allies. We will not repeat mistakes of the past in Iraq, nor will we repeat the mistakes made in Libya. Well-intentioned military interventions independent of stabilization and political strategies give rise to a host of adverse, unintended consequences. For this reason, we seek to de-escalate the civil war in Syria, work for peace, and encourage all parties to head to the negotiating table. Continued fighting will likely lead to worsened humanitarian conditions, more chaos, and increased regional military intervention in Syria. Our focus is to build a positive political path forward that honors the will of the Syrian people and sustains the unity and territorial integrity of Syria. As with almost all of our foreign policy challenges, the steps for achieving our objectives cannot be undertaken alone. We will continue to work closely with allies and partners. In suffering many terrorist attacks over the past few years, our allies in Europe have sadly experienced firsthand what groups like ISIS and al-Qaida are capable of. We need allies and partners to support our strategy in order to permanently mitigate the risk to security posed by these terrorist organizations and others. And finally, the Syrian people have endured seven years of unimaginable chaos and hardship. They need help. A new course of action is a preferable alternative to more years of wishful thinking. A stable, unified, independent Syria will serve the national security interests of the United States, its allies, and our partners. If that reality can come to pass, it will be a victory for all, and it will support the ability of the Syrian people to pursue their own God-given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Thank you for your kind attention, and I look forward to our discussion. (Applause). SECRETARY RICE: Well, thank you. Thank you very much for that comprehensive look at one of the most daunting problems that, I think, anyone in the international system has faced, and I’d like to return to a couple of substantive issues, but I want to ask you a question first about being Secretary of State. It’s kind of a hard job, isn’t it? (Laughter.) SECRETARY TILLERSON: It’s – yeah, it’s a little different. (Laughter.) SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. (Laughter). So, when I was secretary, I’d get up in the morning, and there were some things I’d see on my calendar, and I’d think, “Oh good, I’m going to get to do that,” and then there were some things that I’d would think, “I’ll just – maybe I’ll just go back to bed.” What do you like about the job, and what do you find most challenging? SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, what I like most about the job is what I’ve always enjoyed throughout my career, and it’s the quality of the people you have the privilege to work with every day. And what I’ll say about the people in the State Department, the career people as well as the political appointees: These are extraordinarily dedicated individuals, some of the greatest patriots you’ll meet anywhere, and they really come in every day with one objective in mind, and that’s to carry out the foreign policy goals, objectives of the administration, but to serve the interests of the American people. So what I look forward to every day is even if we’re talking about really complicated issues, like the one I just described – and Syria is one of the most complex situations on the ground – the level of intelligence and the level of openness for us to have a good conversation about that is what I most look forward to. And I have a bullpen area – it used to be the Deputy Secretary of Management’s office. I absconded it, and we have nothing but whiteboards in there, and I love going in the bullpen and just whiteboarding these exercises. What I least look forward to coming in to are those days when I have to deal with the loss of life. And whether it’s the loss of a State Department person, or the loss of military personnel, or any American citizen anywhere, those are the days that are difficult, because you make calls to family members, you try to – people who have been taken hostage, you try to give their families reassurance, but those are the days that are really tough. SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. Now, as Secretary, you face some unique challenges as well. Social media was barely born when I was secretary. Thank God for that. And we know that your boss loves social media, so what’s it like, and how do you deal with the constant pressure of social media, especially out of the White House? SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, he’s world class at social media and I’m not – (laughter) – and I want to confess here in the heart of the creation of this great technology, I have no social media accounts. I have never had any and I don’t intend to have any. (Laughter.) It is a great tool when it’s used well. The President has used it to great effect by bypassing the traditional means of communicating, and he absolutely thrives on this ability to instantly communicate not just to the American people, but to our friends and allies or to our adversaries, to the entire world. I don’t know when he’s going to do that because he – that is just the way the President operates. So the challenge is just getting caught up because I don’t – I don’t even have a Twitter account that I can follow what he’s tweeting, so my staff usually has to print his tweets out and hand them to me. (Laughter.) Now, on the one hand, you can say, “Well, that’s nuts. Why don’t you get an account?” But on the other hand, I’ve actually concluded that’s not a bad system because it goes out and I don’t know it’s going to go out, so there’s not a whole lot I’m going to do until it’s out there. By the time I find out about it, there’s actually been some period of time, and dependent on where I am in the world it might be five minutes or it might be an hour before somebody hands me a piece of paper and says, “Hey, the President just tweeted this out.” There – I already have the early reactions to that and it allows me to now begin to think about, all right, how do we take that then into – if it’s a foreign policy issue, is it – what is it he’s tweeting about, how do we take that and now use it? And so it’s interesting. I get the question a lot from people about, gosh, it must be impossible to deal with that. I had to get used to it early on because it was very unconventional for all of us. But I take it and I say, okay, this is information. Let’s – we know what our objectives are and he didn’t change any of them. This is just his way of wanting to communicate on the subject. How do we take that and use it? And so that’s what – that’s how I deal with it, but I think I’m probably going to go to my grave and never have a social media account. (Laughter.) SECRETARY RICE: I was really struck when you talked about Syria and you talked about the way forward in Syria, leaving aside the military side, which obviously there have been some real gains, particularly in clearing ISIS from Iraq and now a leg up, at least, on ISIS in Syria. But I was struck that when you turned to political stabilization, you used a few words that most people would not associate with the Trump administration. I want to have you talk a little bit about that. You talked about values, America’s values. You talked about human rights. You talked about the need for the Syrian people to be able to express themselves in free elections. We would consider those parts of the values agenda, if you will, because going really all the way back to Woodrow Wilson, American presidents have believed that the internal composition of states actually does matter. And I think you’ve made a very good case that one of the reasons that we face the problem that we face in Syria is that Bashar al-Assad is a dictator who has murdered his own people and oppressed his own people. And so pull back from Syria and talk about how, after now almost a year on the job, you see the issue of values, human rights, democracy in the – in American foreign policy. SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, it’s a great question, and it’s one that I’ve – as an engineer, I guess I’ve had a hard time describing to others how I view it. Our American values of freedom, respect for the individual, human dignity – all of the manifestations of the values that define who we are as a people, who we are collectively as a group of people who have aligned ourselves around these values and defines how we treat one another every day – how you take that into the foreign policy arena. And at one level, these are values that are enduring, and what I’ve said to people is you know with foreign policy if you – when you take the values and you try to put them into foreign policy, the concern I’ve always had is policies can change and adjust, and they do. And so how do you – if you’re doing that, your values never change. They never adjust. So our values are with us at all interactions always. Now, how do you operationalize – and I’ll use that word – how do you operationalize the values? Because I think that’s getting to the heart of the question. And Syria is a great case study in my opinion of that. Going into Syria and advocating human rights, religious freedoms, women’s equal participation in the midst of literally thousands of people and civilians being killed every day doesn’t resonate very well, because the most important human right to anybody is our first one: the right to life. Life, then liberty, then the pursuit of happiness. And that’s the way I think about our values. I first have to keep people from being killed, and if I can keep them from being killed and if we can create areas of stability, then we begin to create the seeds of liberty, and then we create the pathway to a pursuit of happiness. And underneath all of that are, then, the articulation of our respect for the human dignity, the human condition, all the ways that we express these values that are uniquely American values. And so it really is how do you create the conditions so people can actually achieve that, and the priority in Syria right now is stop people from being killed. They’re being killed. They’re being killed by the thousands. Stop that, stabilize it, start creating some conditions, and then we can begin to promote respect for people’s religious freedoms, respect for their dignity. And so it is very much – in my mind it’s – and being an engineer, this is the way I think it’s a process. It’s a process inside of a system, and at any point in time and depending on the country’s condition, the location, the circumstances, we’re going to be at a different place in that process. If we have a stable – a stable government that is repressive of certain religious organizations, then we go right at that. Because it’s not that people are being killed, but they’re being persecuted; they’re being denied their own pursuit of happiness. So it – very much, I think in each situation, I look at it and say, what is the priority here? And the first priority is always the protection of life – stop people from being killed. And if you do that, you begin to create the conditions where we can truly lean forward and advocate on the values themselves. SECRETARY RICE: And the tools for doing the kind of work that you’re talking about, obviously when you’ve stabilized a situation, you still have to have the diplomacy, you still have to have the assistance to people. There have been concerns about the commitment to, say, foreign assistance and to having those tools that American diplomats rely on to bring stability. Jim Mattis apparently famously said that if he doesn’t have foreign assistance, he’s going to need more bullets, just to paraphrase. Now, a couple of American foreign assistance efforts that have been just universally appreciated: PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which probably, through the efforts of President Bush and then President Obama, saved millions of people from a pandemic; and then the Millennium Challenge, which tries to take foreign assistance and give it to states that are actually going to use it wisely, that are not corrupt. Can you talk a little bit about the future of those programs? And I know you’re an advocate for them. How are you doing inside the administration and on the Hill? SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, you picked two of the easiest to defend, because PEPFAR is broadly viewed, within the administration even, as like the gold standard of success. It has produced extraordinary results and it has demonstrated it really uses the American dollar wisely. For dollar invested, if you think about it as an investment, it’s a dollar invested for the return – PEPFAR, by any measure you want to examine it, has been wildly successful. And the Millennium Challenge Corporation, similarly, has been wildly successful because of the disciplined process it uses. I think the debate that goes on more is not about those kinds of programs, but about a lot of other assistance programs that may not have the kind of structure around them that PEPFAR has or the kind of structure around them – and accountability to go with structure – that the Millennium Challenge has, and a view that America is, has been, and still is today the most generous nation on planet Earth when it comes to humanitarian assistance, disaster relief. We are always first and foremost. But if you look at the situation with the nation’s finances, and we all know about the deficits that we’re building up all the time, I think the President has rightly asked the question of, okay, we know what we’re doing; how’s the rest of the world doing? And are you doing your share? And so that has become very much an overlay to how this administration thinks about all means of foreign assistance, from the kind of assistance that’s provided through USAID and the State Department to foreign military sales and assistance, to international organizations at the UN and others. We will do our part, but we demand that others do their part as well. And so he has created very high expectations that we will go out and elicit others to step up and start contributing more on a proportionate basis with their ability to do so. And he famously points to a lot of nations around the world that are doing extraordinarily well. In many cases they’re doing better than we are with our own economy, yet they’re not carrying what in our view is their share of this need the world has. So a lot of this last year and even the early part of this year is a lot of active engagement with countries around this issue. Having said that, there’s no abandonment of our recognition of these needs. And as you know and through the budget process, the budget process involves our two branches of government, co-equal branches. The Congress has their say on it as well, and the administration has theirs. So a lot of this is, in the end, we resolve it through the budget negotiation process. The last thing I would say about the State Department budget in particular, because it got a lot of – it’s gotten a lot of discussion, is I like to give people perspective. The State Department’s budget is coming off of a record high – $55 billion, largest budget the State Department ever had, and a series of about the last five or six years of one record budget after another. And what I tell people, and having run another organization that had large numbers we had to deal with every day, it’s very hard to execute – it’s very hard for the State Department to execute a $55 billion budget. I mean, quite frankly, if you want to do it well and you want to be good stewards of the American hard-earned taxpayer dollar that you’ve been given, we do need to be able to go out and do that well. And the truth of the matter is one of the reasons we’re not struggling in 2017 is we had a lot of carry-forward money because no one could execute that size of a budget. And so there’s a lot of money that’s moving through. So right now I’d say we’re in a dynamic situation where we’re not – we’re not in a position of being unable to meet, we believe, the most critical needs out there. But it’s coming and we’re trying to plan ahead and we’re trying to elicit more burden-sharing from others around the world. SECRETARY RICE: Thanks. One final question before we let you go. I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about where you started your remarks: North Korea. We’ve got false alarms going off in Hawaii. We’ve got people talking about war coming on the peninsula. At the same time, we’ve got the North Koreans and the South Koreans deciding they’re going to march together in the Olympics. Do you have a sense at all that the rhetoric that we’ve used, the fact that perhaps the diplomacy is not as front and center as some of the talk about our military options, that we might be driving a wedge with our South Korean allies? I know when I was secretary and trying to do the Six-Party Negotiations, the North Koreans loved to drive a wedge to pick off the Chinese or pick off the South Koreans or pick off the Russians, and it was really important not for the United States to get isolated. So how should we read these initiatives between the North and South? And tell us about the diplomacy, because I think we’re all in agreement, nobody really wants war on the peninsula, on the Korean Peninsula, despite the seriousness of the North Korean threat. SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, our diplomacy efforts, which began really last February, the first week I was – after I was sworn in, I was with the President in the Oval and the very first foreign policy challenge that he gave me was he said you’ve got to develop a foreign policy approach to North Korea. And so we did and we worked that through the interagency process. And what we – I labeled it the peaceful pressure campaign; the President has since relabeled it the maximum pressure campaign. But it is – and I know people say, “Ah, we’ve tried sanctions in the past. They never work.” We’ve never had a sanctions regime that is as comprehensive as this one, and we’ve never had Chinese support for sanctions like we’re getting now. Russia is a slightly different issue. But the Chinese have leaned in hard on the North Koreans to the point – part of this approach was to help the Chinese come to the realizations that North Korea for the last 50, 60 years may have been an asset to you; they’re now a liability to you. And I mean, it’s because of how events can play out on the Korean Peninsula. If China doesn’t help us solve this problem, there are a lot of follow-on effects, and China is well aware of those. So I think the diplomatic efforts are about unifying the international community around this sanctions campaign, which has been extraordinarily effective. As President Moon himself told us on the phone call – and I would tell you, we have probably – the level of communication that goes on between ourselves, South Korea, and China on this issue is pretty extraordinary. People would probably be surprised at how often we are on the phone with one another a week talking about this. Moon said the reason the South Koreans came to us was because they are feeling the bite of these sanctions. And we’re seeing it in some of the intel, we’re seeing it through anecdotal evidence coming out of defectors that are escaping. The Japanese made a comment yesterday in our session that they have had over 100 North Korean fishing boats that have drifted into Japanese waters – two-thirds of the people on those boats have died – they weren’t trying to escape – and the ones that didn’t die, they wanted to go back home. So they sent them back to North Korea. But what they learned is they’re being sent out in the wintertime to fish because there’s food shortages, and they’re being sent out to fish with inadequate fuel to get back. So we’re getting a lot of evidence that these sanctions are really starting to hurt. And so the rapprochement of the North to the South, now they’re on to the playbook that you know as well as anyone. And the playbook is, okay, we’re going to start our charm offensive to the rest of the world and let them see we’re just normal people like everybody else. We’re going to engender some sympathy. We’re going to try to drive a wedge between South Korea and their allies. And we spent an extraordinary amount of time yesterday in the group discussion hearing from Foreign Minister Kang of South Korea about how they’re not going to let that happen. So we understand what this is about, and we’ve been supportive of this rapprochement, because the other element of the diplomacy is we’ve been waiting for Kim to decide he wants to talk. We’ve been very clear, and our channels are open. And as I said yesterday in my press avail, he knows how to reach me if he wants to talk. But he’s got to tell me he wants to talk. We’re not going to chase him. So this may be their early effort to break the ice; we’ll see. Nothing may come of it, but – we are supportive of that, but I would tell you that among the allies in the region, but equally with China, I don’t think we have ever been as unified against this threat. Because China knows the potential consequences of this, to unintended consequences that could come later. And in diplomacy, where you’re dealing with someone across the table like this, and when we get to that negotiating table – and I’m confident we will – I want to know that Secretary Mattis has a very, very strong military option standing behind me. That will give me a better position from which to try to solve this. As Secretary Mattis and I told our Chinese counterparts when we were across the table from one another in a security and strategic dialogue, I said to my counterpart, Yang Jiechi – I said, “State Councilor, if you and I don’t solve this, these guys get to fight, and we don’t want that. And neither do you.” So we are highly motivated. It is a long process. It’s taken a lot of patience. We’ll see. But we are committed, as is everyone in the international community, to a denuclearized North Korea. And we’re going to stay on that until we achieve it. SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much, and all the best. We certainly hope you succeed. Thank you very much. (Applause.) [1] Governorate The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein. […]

  • API Reports Seventh Large Crude Draw In Seven Weeks
    on January 17, 2018 at 9:52 pm

    The American Petroleum Institute (API) reported a large draw of 5.121 million barrels of United States crude oil inventories for the week ending January 12, marking seven large draws in seven weeks, according to the API data. Analysts had expected a drawdown of 3.588 million barrels in crude oil inventories. Last week, the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported a huge draw of 11.19 million barrels of crude oil, along with an increase in gasoline inventories of 4.338 million barrels. This week, the API is reporting another, although smaller, […]

  • Written testimony of USCG for a House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation hearing titled “The State of the U.S. Flag Maritime Industry”
    on January 17, 2018 at 5:00 am

    Release Date: January 17, 20182167 Rayburn House Office Building Good morning Chairman Hunter, Ranking Member Garamendi, and distinguished members of the Subcommittee. It is my pleasure to be here today to discuss the state of the U.S. maritime industry and the Coast Guard’s role serving that industry. The U.S. Coast Guard is the world’s premier, multi-mission, maritime service responsible for the safety, security, and stewardship of the maritime domain. At all times a military service and branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, a federal law enforcement agency, a regulatory body, a first responder, and a member of the U.S. Intelligence Community, the Coast Guard operates on all seven continents and throughout the homeland, serving a Nation whose economic prosperity and national security are inextricably linked to broad maritime interests. America’s economic prosperity is reliant on the safe, secure, and efficient flow of cargo through the Marine Transportation System (MTS), which now includes 361 ports and more than 25,000 miles of river and coastal waterways. The Nation’s waterways support $4.5 trillion of economic activity each year, including over 250,000 American jobs.1 Transportation of cargo on water by the maritime industry is the most economical, environmentally friendly, and efficient mode of transport. The maritime industry and MTS connect America’s consumers, producers, manufacturers, and farmers to domestic and global markets. Similarly, our national security depends on a healthy maritime industry and reliable MTS. The majority of the military equipment used by the Nation’s warfighters is loaded in U.S ports and delivered to theatre on Coast Guard-inspected merchant vessels that are manned by civilian merchant mariners. As the lead federal regulator for the maritime industry, the Coast Guard must be attentive to the industry’s changing needs and dynamic challenges. Amidst emerging trends within the MTS and the maritime industry, the Coast Guard’s underlying concept of operations and our approach to continuous improvement remains unchanged. We continue to conduct our work using a consistent and enduring concept of operations that has successfully guided us for decades: the Coast Guard develops standards for safe, secure, and environmentally sound operations in the MTS; the Coast Guard assesses and enforces compliance with those standards; and when failures occur, the Coast Guard aggressively investigates them and drives the lessons learned back into our compliance and standards activities. These three phases of operations rely on our ability to leverage our marine safety workforce, engage governmental, non-governmental, and industry partners, and properly manage information and risk. The Coast Guard’s marine safety program and regulatory process advance economic prosperity and national security by leveraging our unique capabilities to ensure that the maritime industry and MTS operate safely, predictably, and securely. We are mindful of the need to facilitate maritime commerce, not impede it. Our marine safety program does this by establishing a level playing field for industry through a framework of common-sense regulations that are enforced in a predictable and consistent manner. The Coast Guard’s regulatory standards and compliance functions also promote investment and innovation throughout the maritime sector by providing the means for investors and operators to evaluate and manage risk. This regulatory framework enables U.S. shipping to compete internationally and U.S. ports to compete equally against each other, while protecting American interests from the risk of substandard shipping. In recent years, the maritime industry has undergone a series of cyclical changes. Within the last ten years, dramatic increases in U.S. energy production led to new construction of U.S.-flag tank barges and tank ships, and sharp increases in shipments of petroleum and petro-chemicals throughout our Nation’s ports and waterways. The expansion of oil exploration and production further offshore led to an increase in the size, complexity, and number of offshore support vessels. Though a recent prolonged downturn in the price of oil has eroded much of the oil and gas exploration and related support activity on the outer continental shelf, the volume of oil, petrochemicals, and liquefied natural gas shipments are still reaching new highs. At the same time, legislative and regulatory changes have led to increased oversight of fishing and towing vessels. The Coast Guard is now examining or inspecting as many as 6,000 additional commercial fishing vessels and 5,000 additional commercial towing vessels. Combined, these trends have shown that the maritime industry and Coast Guard are subject to rapid changes in demand and increasing volume, as technology accelerates commodity production and more vessels are brought under increased Coast Guard oversight. Today, the maritime industry is an innovative and dynamic global industry that continually seeks new ways to efficiently meet stakeholder demands. To meet these growing demands and improve efficiency, the maritime industry is increasingly turning to new and emerging technologies, such as cyber systems, higher levels of automation, and new fuel sources. These technologies enable the maritime industry and MTS to operate with impressive reliability and capacity that drive efficiencies and economic benefits. The regulatory regime should not impede these developments. Our standards and compliance program must evolve to facilitate these changes safely and securely. As the pace and complexity of maritime commerce and operations have increased, third parties have enabled the regulatory regime to evolve and keep up with increasing demand. Third party programs, such as the Alternate Compliance Program (ACP), have become a necessity upon which both the maritime industry and the Coast Guard rely. Like other flag states around the globe, the United States relies far more heavily on third parties today than ever before. However, as recently highlighted in the Coast Guard’s investigation after tragic sinking of the El Faro, the Coast Guard must provide the final element of the safety framework with sustainable policy, oversight, and accountability. Now, more than ever, the system requires reform. The Coast Guard plans to establish a risk-based and enduring policy framework that is easily executable and enables more robust oversight of delegated functions. Further, recognizing that the ACP is only one program among many that rely on delegation of technical functions and services to third parties, it is imperative that changes we make to ACP be applied to all programs that rely on a similar structure. A healthy maritime industry is vital to the nation’s economic prosperity and national security. It is also dynamic and continually evolving to meet stakeholder demand. The Coast Guard’s regulatory development and compliance programs evolve to keep pace with industry change and ensure the continued safety, security, and environmental compliance in the MTS. We are focused on ensuring every Coast Guard action sustains the smooth operation of the MTS, without imposing unnecessary costs on U.S. entities competing in a global industry. Thank you for your continued support and the opportunity to testify before you today. I am happy to answer any questions you may have. 1 “Ports’ Value to the U.S. Economy: Exports, Jobs & Economic Growth.” American Association of Port Authorities, http://www.aapa-ports.org/advocating/content.aspx?ItemNumber=21150, Accessed April 17, 2017.   Topics:  Economic Security, Maritime Keywords:  cargo, maritime industry, Maritime Subsector, MTS […]

  • Collected Department Releases: The United States and Kazakhstan - An Economic Partnership for the 21st Century
    on January 16, 2018 at 11:30 pm

    Fact Sheet Office of the Spokesperson Washington, DC January 16, 2018 President Donald Trump hosted President Nursultan Nazarbayev at the White House on January 16, 2018. The visit reinforced the close commercial and trade ties between the United States and Kazakhstan that will create jobs and accelerate economic growth in both countries. President Nazarbayev proclaimed that these efforts are essential for Kazakhstan to achieve its goal of joining the ranks of the top 30 global economies by 2050. During the visit, numerous commercial contracts and documents were concluded, including new agreements between The Boeing Company, GE Transportation, GE Digital, Chevron, Air Astana, KazTemirZholy, SCAT Airlines, and the Samruk-Kazyna National Wealth Fund for the purchase of U.S. products and services valued at over $2.5 billion. Highlights of this economic cooperation include: Regional Trade and Economic Development Government Cooperation. The United States and Kazakhstan continue to collaborate on implementing WTO obligations, resolving outstanding disputes, improving the Kazakhstani investment climate, and promoting greater bilateral investment. The two countries recently concluded an air navigation agreement, which will strengthen bilateral ties by easing the travel of senior officials between the United States and Kazakhstan. Facilitating Regional Trade. Kazakhstan and the United States cooperate within the framework of the Central Asia Trade and Investment Facilitation Agreement, which promotes increased trade within the region. Kazakhstan demonstrated leadership in trade issues by hosting the most recent meeting of the Central Asian TIFA format in Almaty on December 12, 2017. During this meeting, Kazakhstan and the United States agreed to initiate a new regional working group dedicated to the protection of intellectual property rights in support of trade and innovation. In October 2017, Kazakhstan hosted the seventh Central Asia Trade Forum with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Almaty with participation of over 1,100 government officials, entrepreneurs, donors, and industry leaders from at least 15 countries, leading to over $25 million in signed letters of intent to conduct future trade deals. Bilateral Trade. Bilateral trade in goods grew to $1.9 billion in 2016, and both countries remain committed to further expanding the trade relationship. The United States welcomes Kazakhstan’s interest in pursuing a bilateral civil aviation agreement. This agreement would enhance economic ties and facilitate business links by encouraging affordable, convenient, and efficient services to air travelers. Trade in Commercial Aircraft. During their visit, the two leaders celebrated two separate deals between Boeing and Kazakh airlines totaling over $1.3 billion, sustaining an estimated 7,100 direct and indirect U.S. jobs. Specifically, SCAT Airlines ordered six Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplanes. With the first aircraft scheduled for delivery in March 2018, these will be the first 737 MAXs owned and operated in Kazakhstan and Central Asia, bolstering SCAT’s regional and international network. Additionally, Air Astana, the national flag carrier of Kazakhstan, affirmed its commitment, under the terms of an existing contract, to purchase three 787 Dreamliners, which are scheduled for delivery in 2021. Railways. General Electric and Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ) concluded two new strategic initiatives valued at over $900 million, which will sustain or create over 3,500 U.S. jobs. GE Transportation will design and manufacture up to 300 shunter locomotives for KTZ, with delivery beginning in 2019. GE Transportation also signed an 18-year service agreement to maintain and support 175 current KTZ GE Evo locomotives beginning in 2018. The deal will include an expansion of the main KTZ rail facility in Astana. Agriculture. The United States and Kazakhstan value our agricultural trading relationship and will continue to seek opportunities for cooperation, including through collaborative agricultural research. Joint work on research helps both countries work toward a safe and abundant food supply. Afghanistan Development. The United States and Kazakhstan support sustainable stability and prosperity in Afghanistan through political support, increased regional trade, and economic development. Kazakhstan announced the completion of an Afghan civilian specialist training program and offered to continue training specialists in Kazakhstani institutions. Digital Infrastructure. GE Digital and Kazakhstan’s Samruk-Kazyna National Wealth Fund signed a strategic partnership agreement aimed at accelerating the digital evolution of the Fund's portfolio of industrial companies. The agreement demonstrates the companies’ progress in creating a sustainable digital ecosystem in Kazakhstan, and provides for the joint assessment of GE digital solutions based on the Predix platform. Leadership in Space Exploration. The United States appreciates that Kazakhstan is the point of departure and safe return for American astronauts traveling to and from the International Space Station. The United States encourages Kazakhstan’s participation in the 2nd International Space Exploration Forum on March 3 in Japan. Kazakhstan and the United States will explore cooperation in the application of space technologies to assess environmental and natural hazards within the framework of the International Charter, which aims to provide a unified system of space data acquisition and delivery to countries affected by natural or man-made disasters. Healthcare. The United States and Kazakhstan are improving health care services in Kazakhstan through cooperation with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is also working with Nazarbayev University to establish a world-class oncology center, which will serve the citizens of Kazakhstan and all of Central Asia. Pharmaceuticals. Pfizer signed a memorandum of understanding with Kazakhstan to explore a localization project for the secondary packaging of a high-technology medical product. If concluded, the project could include measures to improve the cold chain system for the transportation and storage of medicines in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan and Future Energy World Expo 2017. Kazakhstan hosted the 2017 Expo in Astana, highlighting leadership in energy innovation under the slogan “Future Energy.” The Expo grounds will be the future site of the Astana International Financial Center and a technology innovation park. Strategic Energy Dialogue. In 2017, the United States and Kazakhstan elevated the previous bilateral Energy Partnership to the level of a Strategic Energy Dialogue, which will begin technical discussions in 2018. This enhanced format provides a framework for cooperation on civilian nuclear development, carbon capture utilization and storage, grid resiliency, and nuclear security and non-proliferation. Oil and Gas Exports and Investment. Chevron and ExxonMobil entered the Kazakhstani market in 1993, becoming the first major oil companies to invest in the newly-independent country. Chevron signed a landmark 40-year deal to develop the super-giant Tengiz field, and in the years since, Chevron has invested tens of billions of dollars in Kazakhstan to produce oil and gas, creating thousands of jobs and bringing world-class technology and expertise to the country’s energy sector. Chevron signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Kazakhstani Ministry of Energy to use $251 million of reinvestment funds to finance profitable projects in Kazakhstan. With total investments surpassing $20.2 billion, ExxonMobil is active in the exploration, development, production, and transportation of oil and gas. TengizChevrOil (TCO), a joint venture with KazMunaiGaz, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and LukArco, has made direct financial payments of over $124 billion to Kazakhstani entities, and is currently implementing a $36.8 billion expansion project. The North Caspian Sea Production Sharing Agreement (NCSPSA) project is Kazakhstan’s largest direct foreign investment project, creating local jobs and business opportunities. The Kashagan Phase 1 project cost approximately $55 billion, with local content in goods, works, and services valued at more than $13.3 billion since 2004. The project will produce for decades and its shareholders, including ExxonMobil, expect to contribute billions of dollars in direct revenue to the Kazakhstani government. Chevron and ExxonMobil have contributed to the development of Kazakhstan’s economy through participation in the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC). In 2017, the CPC completed the Kazakhstani portion of an expansion project that could increase total throughput capacity to 1.4 million barrels per day. The pipeline system represents the most attractive export option for Kazakhstani crude oil from the Tengiz and Kashagan fields. Nuclear Power. The United States and Kazakhstan are committed to cooperation advancing safe nuclear power. Kazakhstan is a leading uranium supplier, producing over 24,000 tons of nuclear fuel in 2016. In 2017, Kazakhstan opened the Low Enriched Uranium Bank in partnership with the United States. The LEU Bank provides a reliable source of fuel for countries transitioning to clean nuclear power and reduces the proliferation risk of enrichment technologies. Regional Grid Modernization. The United States and Kazakhstan agreed to explore technologies and projects to re-integrate the Central Asian regional power grid and enhance energy security, improve economic stability, and facilitate commercial investment. Power the Future – a regional effort within the framework of the 2015 "Joint Declaration of Partnership by the Five Countries of Central Asia and the United States of America" (C5+1) -- helps support the region's transition to low emission, climate resilient economies. The Power the Future program supports renewable energy projects that increase energy efficiency in Kazakhstan, while improving the ability to develop and achieve goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Enhancing Human Capital Visa Program. In 2015, Kazakhstan initiated a short-term visa-free entry program for U.S. citizens, and the United States began issuing 10-year business and tourist visas to Kazakhstani citizens. These visa regimes have facilitated travel to both countries, opening new opportunities for business, investment, and tourism. Travel. Today, nearly 26,000 Kazakhstani citizens reside in the United States and over 5,000 U.S. citizens live in Kazakhstan. Last year, the United States Government issued nearly 18,000 visas to Kazakhstani citizens, and facilitated many visits to the United States. Education. The United States committed to assist the Government of Kazakhstan achieve its goal to establish a tri-lingual society by 2050. The United States will resource development programs to improve access to English language education and train the next generation of English language educators in Kazakhstan. In 2017, over 2,800 Kazakhstani English teachers participated in professional development webinars. In 2018, American teaching assistants will help improve English language instruction in provinces across Kazakhstan. The “English Access Microscholarship” program has helped 480 economically disadvantaged youth attend after-school classes and summer learning activities. The United States funds the “English for Journalists” program, which will improve the professional qualifications of 230 Kazakhstani journalists. Bolashak Program. In 1993, Kazakhstan launched the Bolashak presidential scholarship program for international study. ‘Bolashak’, which means ‘future’ in Kazakh, demonstrates the importance Kazakhstan places on educating its youth at the best universities in the world. The Bolashak Program is a recognized, all-expenses paid scholarship awarded to high-performing students from Kazakhstan for graduate study at an overseas university. The United States has worked with the Bolashak program to help with the selection process and to widen the number of U.S. universities participating in the program. Since its inception in 1993, more than 12,500 Kazakhstani students have been awarded Bolashak scholarships, with 2,315 completing a course of study in the United States. Upon completion of their graduate degree, Bolashak scholars return to work in Kazakhstan for at least five years. Currently, 358 Kazakhstani Bolashak scholars are studying at U.S. institutions of higher learning. The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein. […]

  • US set to reclaim the crude throne
    on January 15, 2018 at 10:00 pm

    The United States is on its way to become the world’s top crude oil producer, overtaking Russia and Saudi Arabia in the process. It held on to that mantle a couple of years ago too and seems now set to sit on the throne, once again. The US Energy Information Administration reported last Tuesday that ... […]

  • Baker-Hughes Rig Count
    on January 12, 2018 at 11:30 pm

    The Baker Hughes North American rig count tracks weekly changes in the number of active operating oil & gas rigs. Used for drilling wellbores for wells that may eventually produce oil or gas, active rigs are essential for the exploration and development of oil and gas fields. Rigs that are not active are not counted. Components in the data are the United States and Canada with a separate count for the Gulf of Mexico (which is a subset of the U.S. total). The count includes only rigs that are significant users of oilfield services and supplies. --> […]

  • Japanese tycoon loans Basquiat masterpiece to Brooklyn
    on January 12, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    A Basquiat masterpiece, bought by a Japanese billionaire for a record $110.5 million, will make its museum debut this month, going on display in the artist's home borough of Brooklyn. Jean-Michel Basquiat's 1982 "Untitled" has been virtually unseen in public and never previously been exhibited in a museum. It depicts a skull-like head in oil-stick, acrylic and spray paint, and was bought at Sotheby's last May by Yusaku Maezawa. The $110.5 million price tag set a new auction record for Basquiat and a record for the work of any United States artist at auction. "My wish to share this masterpiece with as many people as possible begins in Basquiat's home town of Brooklyn," Maezaw...Keep on reading: Japanese tycoon loans Basquiat masterpiece to Brooklyn […]

  • ICE moves some oil contracts to U.S. as MiFID II takes effect
    on January 11, 2018 at 10:00 pm

    The Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), one of the world’s biggest commodity exchanges, is shifting the trading of some oil contracts to the United States, the exchange said in a statement, as customers balk at new European Union rules. The EU’s revamped Markets in Financial Instruments Directive, known as MiFID II, aims to curb speculative trading and ... […]

  • Brent crude settles below $70 per barrel as global inventories tighten
    on January 11, 2018 at 10:00 pm

    Oil prices retreated from big gains on Thursday, but still managed to settle at three-year highs after the global Brent benchmark hit $70 a barrel on signs of tightening supply in the United States. Brent crude futures settled 6 cents higher at $69.26 a barrel, after hitting $70.05 a barrel during the session, its highest ... […]

  • Trump Expands Offshore Drilling in "Assault" on Biodiversity and Coastal & Indigenous Communities
    on January 11, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    Bipartisan opposition is growing to President Trump's proposal to greatly expand offshore oil and gas drilling. The reversal of the Obama-era restrictions would open more than a billion acres of water in the Arctic, Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico to offshore oil and gas drilling. Initially the Interior Department moved to allow offshore oil and gas drilling in nearly all of the United States' coastal waters, but then announced it has dropped plans to open up the waters off the coast of Florida, following fierce opposition by Florida's Republican Governor Rick Scott. Scott is an ally of President Trump, and the state is also home to Trump's winter resort at Mar-a-Lago. Now governors and lawmakers from Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, California, Oregon, Washington and other states are asking why only Florida is being exempted. We speak to Subhankar Banerjee, professor of art and ecology at the University of New Mexico. Banerjee is the author of "Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land" and editor of "Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point." […]

  • Call out Iran but Keep Nuclear Deal, Germany says to U.S.
    on January 11, 2018 at 11:37 am

    Europe and the United States should confront Tehran about its ballistic weapons program and its role in Syria’s civil war but a 2015 deal to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb must be preserved, Germany’s foreign minister said on Thursday, Reuters reported.Speaking before a meeting with his counterparts from Iran, Britain and France and the European Union, Sigmar Gabriel said the United States was right to address concerns about Iran’s strategy in the Middle East.But he said: “We should separate two things from each other: we want to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran... and the difficult role Iran has in the region.”“We want to speak with Iran about its role in the region, which is more than problematic,” he said, citing Iran’s influence in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.On the eve of a deadline for U.S. President Donald Trump to decide whether to reimpose oil sanctions lifted under the agreement, the EU’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini convened the meeting with the European powers to show support for the nuclear deal in a message to Washington, diplomats and officials said.Tehran has always denied seeking nuclear arms.British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, in a statement released before the start of the meeting in Brussels, called the nuclear deal “a crucial agreement that makes the world safer.”Trump’s October decision not to certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal has put Washington at odds with all other signatories of the accord - Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union.European allies have warned of a split with the United States over the nuclear agreement and say if Washington reimposes sanctions on Iran, the pact could fall apart.Trump must decide by mid-January whether to continue waiving U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil exports under the terms of the pact. The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday the Trump administration was expected to decide on Friday.The decision comes as Iran’s government deals with protests over economic hardships and corruption that are linked to frustration among younger Iranians who hoped to see more benefits from the lifting of sanctions. […]

  • Ship carrying LNG from UK turns to Mediterranean – tracking data
    on January 11, 2018 at 10:00 am

    A vessel that picked up liquefied natural gas from the United Kingdom that was headed to the United States has turned toward the Mediterranean, according to Thomson Reuters shipping data. Engie SA’s Gaselys tanker picked up LNG from National Grid SA’s Isle of Grain facility near London on Dec. 30. It was initially expected to ... […]

  • Geopolitical risks to US oil supply lowest since the early 1970s
    on January 10, 2018 at 10:00 pm

    The geopolitical risks to the United States’ oil supply are the lowest since the early 1970s, due to fracking, climate action and a more diverse global supply, according to a new paper by experts at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. America’s energy prosperity contrasts with a more fraught period for energy-exporting countries where ... […]

  • Goldman: OPEC Will Talk Oil Prices Down If Brent Tops $70
    on January 10, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    OPEC doesn’t want central banks around the world the start responding to inflationary pressure from oil prices above $70 a barrel, nor do they want U.S. shale investments to rise, so the cartel will try to talk oil prices down if Brent exceeds $70 per barrel in the coming days, according to Goldman Sachs. At 09:32 a.m. on Wednesday, Brent Crude was up 0.41 percent at $69.10, just shy of the $70-a-barrel mark, after the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported a staggeringly large draw of 11.19 million barrels of United States crud […]

  • Oil Prices Rise After API Reports Staggering Crude Oil Draw
    on January 9, 2018 at 9:43 pm

    The American Petroleum Institute (API) reported a staggeringly large draw of 11.19 million barrels of United States crude oil inventories for the week ending January 5, marking six large draws in as many weeks, according to the API data. Analysts, had expected a much smaller drawdown of 3.89 million barrels in crude oil. Last week, the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported a large draw of 4.992 million barrels of crude oil, along with an increase in gasoline inventories of 1.87 million barrels. This week, the API is reporting another build […]

  • East China Sea oil tanker burns for third day as winds, high waves lash rescuers - Reuters
    on January 9, 2018 at 11:37 am

    ReutersEast China Sea oil tanker burns for third day as winds, high waves lash rescuersReutersThe tanker Sanchi (IMO:9356608), run by Iran's top oil shipping operator, National Iranian Tanker Co, collided on Saturday with the CF Crystal (IMO:9497050), carrying grain from the United States, about 160 nautical miles (300 km) off China's coast ...Sanchi oil tanker: 'No big spill' off China coastBBC NewsIranian oil tanker burns for third day after collision off China coastCNBCOil Burning on Tanker Off China Could Curb Sea-Spill FalloutBloombergNPR -The Guardian -Washington Post -Reutersall 781 news articles » […]

  • Condensate: a convenient yet explosive fossil fuel
    on January 9, 2018 at 10:00 am

    An Iranian oil tanker collided with a grain freighter in the East China Sea over the weekend, erupting in fire and leaving its entire crew of 32 dead or missing. The tanker Sanchi (IMO:9356608) collided with the CF Crystal (IMO:9497050), a cargo ship carrying grain from the United States, about 160 nautical miles offshore to ... […]

  • Case Study: United States Levies Civil Suits Against Chinese and Russian Entities
    on January 8, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    On August 22, 2017, the United States Department of Justice announced two law suits against financial and nonproliferation sanctions busting rings in China and Singapore (the latter involving Russian-owned entities and individuals). The law suits allege the rings are working to help North Korea buy or sell goods internationally and then launder the money for its nuclear, missile, and military programs. The accused allegedly violated U.S. laws when funds passed through U.S. correspondent banking accounts. The two rings even cooperated on financial transaction schemes, according to legal documents. The United States designated North Korea a jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern in 2016, rendering “all North Korean financial institutions – and entities acting on their behalf – [cut] off from any trade in U.S. dollar transactions via correspondent banking.”1 The U.S. government has frozen millions of dollars in assets of both rings and has asked for their forfeiture in rem.2 The U.S. government at times uses civil action to go after the financial assets of alleged lawbreakers located outside of U.S. jurisdiction. The law suits were announced alongside a broader set of Treasury Department sanctions against Chinese and Russian companies and individuals for their support to North Korea’s industries that fund its weapons of mass destruction programs.3 These cases show that North Korea continues to circumvent U.S. and international sanctions by concealing the origin of goods and payments and exploiting international financial mechanisms using willing front companies and partners. Alongside its efforts to sanction those illicit partners, the United States needs to sanction banks in China and Russia that do business with North Korea until they prove they have taken steps to curtail such activities. Enforcement officials also need to constantly stay on top of new North Korean schemes as they emerge and study new opportunities for sanctioning vulnerable North Korean imports. Case 1: Dandong Chengtai et al. of China On August 22, 2017, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia filed a civil suit against Dandong Chengtai Trading Limited of China, its aliases and associated names, and its owner, Chi Yupeng. The suit asks for the forfeiture of $4,083,935 in Dandong Chengtai assets that have been frozen by the U.S. government. The U.S. Complaint arises out of a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigation and alleges that Dandong Chengtai and its aliases, such as Dandong Zhicheng, Rambo Resources, Ruizhi Resources, Shun Mao Mining, Maison Trading, and its owner Chi Yupeng, schemed to “launder U.S. dollars through the United States on behalf of sanctioned entities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (“DPRK” or “North Korea”) via the sale of coal.”4 According to information obtained from defectors cited in the case, coal funds are routed through North Korea’s Office 39, an organization that maintains foreign currency and reserve funds for Kim Jong Un, the Worker’s Party, and the military. Kim uses the funds almost entirely (the defector claimed 95 percent) to pay for North Korean nuclear, missile, and other weapons programs. The funds in this case appear to have been used by the Chinese entities to purchase other items on behalf of North Korea, including dual-use nuclear and missile components and luxury items, in order to avoid sending dollars back to the DPRK. The entities and individuals named in this case are located in China, apart from Maison Trading, which is “purportedly headquartered in the Marshall Islands.” The more than $4 million in funds were frozen after Dandong Chengtai wired money to Maison Trading, where the funds were routed through the U.S. correspondent banking accounts. Four alleged counts described in the Complaint are violations of the United States’ International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act (NKSPEA) of 2016, its conspiracy statute, and its money laundering statute. The actions also violate United Nations sanctions on North Korea which prohibit money laundering activities particularly for the benefit of North Korean weapons programs. The Scheme A U.S. Treasury Department Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) finding included in the Complaint well summarizes the alleged scheme: North Korea makes “extensive use of deceptive financial practices, including the use of shell and front companies to obfuscate the true originator, beneficiary, and purpose behind its transactions,” in part “to evade international sanctions.”5 In this case, the North Koreans schemed to export vast amounts of coal and other goods to Chinese entities, which then re-sold the coal and used the profits to fulfill shopping lists of items for North Korea. At times, various debts were canceled among entities as payment. In this way, the Chinese entities were largely able to avoid paying North Korea in dollars. The so-called Chi Yupeng Network of Companies, which includes the aliases and alternate names in the law suit, was responsible for importing nearly $700,000,000 worth of coal from North Korea between January 2013 and February 2017. It is worth noting that China suspended North Korean coal imports in February 2017.6 Financial records cited in the Complaint reveal that the network wired out at least $60,000,000 in U.S. dollars since NKSPEA’s enactment in 2016 alone. Chi Yupeng was purportedly one person trusted by Office 39 among a close cadre of reliable middlemen who exploit the international financial system on behalf of North Korea, according to a defector. The Complaint also notes that Dandong Chengtai “allegedly used the foreign exchange received from the end users of the North Korean coal to purchase other items for North Korea, including nuclear and missile components.” The Complaint does not further describe these items or activity except to indicate a general scheme to move military related items into North Korea. It also lists other items sought by North Korea such as luxury items, cell phones, sugar, rubber, petroleum products, and soybean oil. The Complaint notes that this coal for weapons scheme gave rise to a UN sanctions resolution in August 2017 that further restricts North Korea’s ability to export coal. The Complaint states, “in particular, coal trade has generated over $1 billion in revenue per year for North Korea, activity which prompted the UN Security Council to seek to sharply curtail such exports in November 30, 2016, and then to fully ban them in August 5, 2017.”7 The Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Dandong Chengtai and its aliases on August 22, 2017, along with two other Chinese coal companies. Dandong Chengtai, the largest importer of North Korean coal, has also been involved with other sanctioned entities, such as the North Korean Koryo Credit Development Bank and Korea Ocean Shipping Agency, and the Chinese telecommunications company recently fined by the United States, ZTE Corporation, along with its front companies. Case 2: Velmur Management and Transatlantic Partners (both Russian-owned) of Singapore On August 22, 2017, the Department of Justice also announced a civil suit by the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia against two front companies, Velmur Management and Transatlantic Partners, of Singapore. The United States has frozen $6,999,925 in assets of Velmur Management, which is partly Russian-owned; Transatlantic is also partly Russian-owned. The Complaint arises out of an FBI investigation that found that Velmur and Transatlantic schemed with a Russian company, JSC Independent Petroleum Company (IPC), and a North Korean bank, the North Korean Foreign Trade Bank (FTB), to launder millions of dollars through U.S. correspondent accounts for North Korean purchases of IPC gasoil.8 The Complaint explains that gasoil is “a distilled petroleum product such as gasoline and/or diesel fuel,” and that North Korea became highly dependent on Russia gasoil imports in 2017. Other front companies were also involved in the scheme, such as additional entities registered in Singapore and Hong Kong and/or China. At least two illicit transactions tracked by the investigation allegedly involved Dandong Chengtai of China and its aliases, described in Case 1 above. The law suit alleges that Velmur was involved in seven wire transfers made from FTB via Transatlantic and others, to the Russian company IPC, representing the nearly $7 million in frozen assets. FTB and IPC were sanctioned by the Treasury Department in 2013 and June 2017, respectively. The Complaint found that Velmur and Transatlantic schemed to wire at least $20 million in U.S. dollars in recent years. The Complaint found, “These opaque U.S. dollar transactions by front companies promote IEEPA and NKSPEA violations, by preventing the imposition of sanctions.”9 Much like the Dandong Chengtai case, four alleged counts described in the Complaint are violations of IEEPA, NKSPEA, the conspiracy statute, and the money laundering statute. The actions also violate UN sanctions on North Korea which prohibit money laundering activities. The Scheme The Complaint discusses the scheme by highlighting the findings of a FinCen report on North Korea’s money laundering techniques. The report found, “North Korea conducts almost no banking in true name in the formal financial system given that many of its outward facing agencies and financial institutions have been sanctioned by the United States, the United Nations, or both.” However, FinCen notes, “North Korea does have access to the U.S. financial system through a system of front companies, business arrangements, and representatives that obfuscate the true originator, beneficiary, and purpose of transactions,” which has allowed North Korea to launder millions of dollars through the U.S. correspondent accounts.10 In this case, it used those illicit partners, located in Singapore and Hong Kong and/or China, to access the U.S. financial system. In 2013, according to the Complaint, FTB “developed and instituted an inter-bank clearing system in North Korea.” After this system was put in place, North Korean banks needed to maintain currency clearing accounts at FTB, and FTB became responsible for setting currency exchange rates. This reform, “in effect, channeled transactions from North Korea’s arms exports and luxury goods imports through FTB.”11 OFAC noted in its 2013 designation that FTB is used “to facilitate millions of dollars in transactions on behalf of actors linked to [North Korea’s] proliferation network.” FTB used the front company Transatlantic and other front companies to send U.S. dollars to Velmur. Velmur then transferred the funds to IPC, the Russian petroleum products supplier. IPC would then ship gasoil to North Korea. The Complaint notes that Velmur was registered in Singapore in 2014 and describes itself as a commercial and industrial real estate management company. A source told investigators that it is operated in part by a Russian national, Irina Huish. Huish was added to OFAC designations on August 22, 2017. Velmur “bears the hallmarks of a front company.” It has no website and may not actually use its registered address. The Complaint states that, in fact, numerous companies are registered at its address. Transatlantic is also apparently a front company that was registered in Singapore in May 2016 and operates on behalf of North Korea’s financial schemes. It was added to OFAC sanctions on August 22. A source told investigators that Transatlantic is operated in part by Andrei Serbin, a Russian national who was also designated on August 22. Transatlantic reached a contract with Daesong Credit Development Bank in the past, which has been under U.S. sanction since 2016. OFAC also designated Mikhail Pisklin, a Russian national, who worked to conclude the contract between Transatlantic and Daesong Credit Development Bank. Daesong Credit Development Bank has laundered millions of dollars through the U.S. financial system. The Complaint describes how Velmur’s operator Irina Huish, and Serbin, worked together for the gasoil deliveries to North Korea. One of the investigation’s confidential sources revealed that Transatlantic contracted with Velmur on December 6, 2016 for the purchase by Transatlantic of 5,000 metric tons of gasoil. An addendum to the contract was added on May 11, 2017. The Complaint describes three other unnamed companies that worked closely with Velmur on sending illicit payments on behalf of North Korea. The first company (Company 1) was registered in Hong Kong as of 2008 but bank records show an address in Qingdao City, China. The second company (Company 2) was registered in Singapore in October 2016. It apparently has no actual physical office space but its address is listed as being in the same building as Transatlantic. The third company (Company 3) was registered in Singapore in May 2014; its website was registered in 2016 using an anonymization service, and it identifies itself as a petrochemical company on its website but as a logistics provider and trader in corporate registry records. It does not appear to have an actual physical office space but shares a virtual office address used by many companies. JSC Independent Petroleum Company, or IPC, was designated by OFAC in June 2017. It has contracted with North Korea for oil sales and has shipped over $1 million in petroleum products to North Korea. Illicit Financial Transactions, including cooperation with Dandong Chengtai and aliases The Complaint states that in September 2016, Dandong Chengtai of China wired $230,000 to Velmur. Dandong Chengtai is also known to have made payments on behalf of FTB. In July 2016, Ruizhi Resources, one of Dandong Chengtai’s front company aliases or affiliates, also wired $189,980 to Velmur. In 2016, the Complaint states, an FTB front company wired two payments to Velmur totaling more than $250,000. A confidential source told investigators that this front company worked for FTB and it had previously made payments to third parties for FTB. In 2017, another FTB front company made two payments to Velmur totaling more than $500,000. The aforementioned source stated to investigators that this front company had previously made payments on behalf of FTB. Assets Frozen under law suit The Complaint tracks each of the seven wire transfers made from Velmur to IPC via Transatlantic and others. Another confidential source to the investigation provided a bill of lading for May 2017 shipments of diesel fuel by IPC to North Korea, departing from Port Vladivostok, Russia. The port is “a known waypoint for Russian transshipments to North Korea.” Shipping data gathered by investigators showed a steady stream of oil tanker traffic between Vladivostok and North Korea at the time. The Complaint describes how Transatlantic and other front companies wired North Korean money through Velmur. The funds described below make up portions of the assets frozen by the U.S. government. An undated payment confirmed by a source, in the amount of $1.09 million, was made from a “clandestine FTB branch located outside North Korea” via an FTB front company, to Velmur. On May 5, 2017, Company 1, described above, wired Velmur $1,199,975 for gasoil. Two additional payments were made. U.S. or foreign banks appear to have frozen those transactions. Company 2, also described above, has previously wired funds to Company 1. It wired $350,000 to Company 1 on May 2, 2017. Three days later, Company 1 wired Velmur the $1,199,975 for gasoil. On May 12, after U.S. or foreign banks appear to have frozen the transactions described above, Company 2 attempted to wire Velmur a payment in the amount of $1,200,000. This transaction was apparently also frozen. Two additional companies then attempted payments to Velmur. On May 12, Transatlantic wired $1,510,000 to Velmur for gasoil. This transaction was frozen. On May 24, Company 3 (described above) wired $500,000 to Velmur for gasoil. This transaction was apparently frozen. On June 1, Transatlantic wired $490,000 to Velmur for gasoil. This transaction was also frozen. Lessons and Observations The Dandong Chengtai case shows that recent UN resolution 2371 to prohibit coal trade with North Korea may temporarily restrict its ability to acquire needed dual-use goods for its nuclear, missile, and military programs. It is unclear how quickly North Korea will be able to regroup and create a new scheme to supply its needs. It is notable that U.S. law enforcement efforts must rely heavily on information from defectors to inform them about the pariah state’s inner workings and efforts to circumvent U.S. and international sanctions. The United States and its allies should stay abreast of new efforts to replace this lucrative channel as North Korea’s coal exports are curtailed. The Velmur/Transatlantic case shows that Singapore has a front company problem and potentially an illicit financial transactions problem, although transactions through Singaporean financial institutions are not described in the Complaint. Entities are registering under phony pretenses and using false addresses to operate on behalf of Russia and North Korea. Singapore should investigate and crack down on front companies using its territory for sanctions circumvention activities. It should also work with financial institutions to better prevent any illicit financial transfers using Singaporean banks. This case also shows that North Korea is vulnerable to having its gasoil imports curtailed. As part of a broader effort to ban exports of oil to North Korea, halting gasoil exports to North Korea could be another area for policymakers to implement in new UN or U.S. sanctions if they seek to significantly increase pressure on North Korea to limit and eventually disable its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Getting China on board with such an effort would be critical.12 The Trump administration’s efforts to sanction Chinese and Russia-owned companies and individuals that significantly support North Korea’s weapons programs are a positive step. But it should go further and sanction major Chinese and Russian banks (and companies) for any illicit North Korea dealings. Both countries have gotten away for far too long and have faced too few consequences for turning a blind eye to the sanctions-busting business activities of their citizens and those of North Korea in using their economies for nefarious purposes. Moreover, there is much evidence that both governments actively facilitate and encourage certain economic relationships with North Korea, even if they violate UN and U.S. sanctions, such as the Russians working from Singapore to facilitate payments to IPC for gasoil. The administration should continue to increase pressure on China and Russia to take actions to close down North Korea’s illicit trade and financing activity within their territories and abroad. 1. United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Complaint: United States of America vs. $4,083.935.00 of funds associated with Dandong Chengtai Trading Co., Ltd, Defendant in Rem, aliases and associated entities, and Chi Yupeng, Case 1:17-cv-01706, Filed August 22, 2017, Available at Pacer.gov.↩ 2.In Rem, as defined by the Law.com legal dictionary, means: “Against or about a thing,” referring to a lawsuit or other legal action directed toward property, rather than toward a particular person. Thus, if title to property is the issue, the action is “in rem.” The term is important since the location of the property determines which court has jurisdiction and enforcement of a judgment must be upon the property and does not follow a person. “In rem” is different from “in personam,” which is directed toward a particular person.↩ 3. Carol Morello and Peter Whoriskey, “U.S. Hits Chinese and Russian Companies, Individuals with Sanctions for Doing Business with North Korea,” The Washington Post, August 22, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-sanctions-chinese-and-russian-companies-and-individuals-for-conducting-business-with-north-korea/2017/08/22/78992312-8743-11e7-961d-2f373b3977ee_story.html?utm_term=.82503b92f0d6↩ 4. Ibid.↩ 5. Ibid, p. 9.↩ 6. Chen Aizhu, “Exclusive: China’s CNPC Suspends Fuel Sales to North Korea as Risks Mount – Sources,” Reuters. June 28, 2017, https://finance.yahoo.com/news/exclusive-chinas-cnpc-suspends-fuel-012344827.html↩ 7. Ibid, p. 14.↩ 8. United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Complaint: United States of America vs. $6,999,925.00 of funds associated with Velmur Management Pte Ltd, Defendant in Rem, and Velmur Management Pte Ltd and Transatlantic Partners Pte Ltd, Case 1:17-cv-01705-RC, Filed August 22, 2017, Available at Pacer.gov.↩ 9. Ibid, p. 10.↩ 10. Ibid, p. 13.↩ 11. Ibid, p. 15.↩ 12. Tony Munroe and Jane Chung, “For North Korea, Cutting Off Oil Supplies Would be Devastating,” Reuters. April 13, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-nuclear-china-oil-idUSKBN17F17L↩ […]

  • Iran Oil Tanker Accident: US Helping In Search, Rescue Off China Coast
    on January 8, 2018 at 4:45 am

    A United States Navy aircraft has joined the search for 32 mariners who went missing after an oil tanker and a cargo ship from Hong Kong collided off China’s eastern coast Saturday. The collision led to the oil tanker being set ablaze and expelling its cargo into the sea waters. The missing 32 persons were aboard the oil tanker. […]

  • Cold weather, higher exports result in record natural gas demand
    on January 5, 2018 at 10:00 pm

    Estimated U.S. natural gas demand on January 1, 2018 reached 150.7 billion cubic feet, surpassing the previous single-day record set in 2014, according to estimates from PointLogic. Much colder-than-normal temperatures across much of the United States have led to increased demand for heating, much of which is provided by natural gas. Although residential and commercial ... […]

  • Canadian Crude Oil Exports Decline On Keystone Pipeline Leaks
    on January 5, 2018 at 10:00 pm

    Canadian crude oil exports fell 2.4 percent in November as the United States dropped imports from its northern neighbor to 3.26 million barrels per day, according to a new report by Reuters. An 80,000-bpd drop came as the Keystone pipeline was forced to shut down following a leak in South Dakota a couple of months ago. Since then, the TransCanada line has resumed operations, but capacity has been curtailed 20 percent owing to orders by U.S. regulators. Canada has also ramped up its purchases of American crude, tallying a 127,000-bpd increase in […]

  • America could become oil king of the world in 2018
    on January 5, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    The United States is poised to ramp up crude oil production by 10% in 2018 to about 11 million barrels per day, according to research firm Rystad Energy. Surging shale oil output should allow the United States to dethrone Russia and Saudi Arabia as the planet’s leading crude oil producer, Rystad predicted in a recent ... […]

  • Nigeria:Oil Hits $68, Boosts Nigeria's Revenue, but Petrol Imports Hurt Finances
    on January 5, 2018 at 5:56 am

    [This Day] The price of crude oil rose further Thursday exceeding $68 per barrel, its highest since May 2015, supported by unrest in Iran and raising concern about risks to supplies, cold weather in the United States boosting demand, and output cuts led by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). […]

  • White House, senators seek Iran measure ahead of nuclear deadline
    on January 5, 2018 at 5:20 am

    Author: REUTERSFri, 2018-01-05 07:41ID: 1515127766548433200WASHINGTON: US senators and Trump administration officials met at the White House on Thursday, hoping to hammer out compromise legislation to tighten restrictions on Iran while keeping Washington in an international nuclear deal with Tehran. Senators Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Ben Cardin, the panel’s top Democrat, had an evening meeting with President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, to discuss possible legislation, Senate and White House aides said. The stakes have risen in the past week with anti-government protests in several Iranian cities over economic hardships and corruption, the boldest challenge to Iran’s leadership in a decade. Worrying European allies who co-signed the 2015 accord, Trump has railed against the deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for loosening sanctions reached under his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama. In October, the Republican president announced that he would not certify that staying in the pact was in the US national security interest, and threatened to pull out if lawmakers did not act to toughen it. Members of Congress have been working since to come up with a bipartisan compromise that would give Trump enough political cover not to reimpose sanctions on Iranian oil before a deadline next week, an action that would kill the pact. Aides said they were looking at measures including ending the requirement that Trump re-certify the agreement every 90 days and changing some of the so-called sunset provisions to allow the reimposition of US sanctions, with no timetable, if Iran’s nuclear program reaches certain thresholds. Ahead of the meeting, Corker said he hoped enough progress had been made that Trump might not restore the sanctions. “My sense is there’s a little momentum right now, and it doesn’t feel to me like we’re in a place where the president might do that, but who knows,” he told reporters at the Capitol. Concern for protests Corker said the protests in Iran made it more important that Washington not do anything to shift the focus from Iran’s government. “The last thing we need to do from my perspective would be to turn that attention to us,” he said. The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to meet Friday at 3 p.m. (2000 GMT) to discuss Iran, days after US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called for an emergency session to discuss the protests. The US proposal was dismissed by Russia, another participant in the nuclear deal, as “harmful and destructive,” with “no role for the United Nations Security Council in this issue.” A procedural vote which no council member can veto could be used to stop the meeting. If nine of the 15 countries on the council vote to stop the meeting that would end the discussion. “This is a matter of fundamental human rights for the Iranian people, but it is also a matter of international peace and security,” said Haley in a statement late on Thursday. “It will be telling if any country tries to deny the Security Council from even having this discussion.” Separately, the US Treasury Department on Thursday sanctioned five Iranian-based entities it said were owned or controlled by an industrial firm responsible for developing and producing Iran’s solid-propellant ballistic missiles. “These sanctions target key entities involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program, which the Iranian regime prioritizes over the economic well-being of the Iranian people,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. The department said the sanctioned entities — the Shahid Eslami Research Center, Shahid Kharrazi Industries, Shahid Moghaddam Industries, Shahid Sanikhani Industries and Shahid Shustari Industries — were subordinated to the Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group. The sanctions freeze any property the entities hold in the United States and prohibit Americans from dealing with them. Main category: Middle-EastTags: Iran-US relationsiran sanctionsnuclear dealIran dealrelated_nodes: Anti-regime protests in Iran continueUS sanctions five entities tied to Iran’s missiles program […]

  • Trump Admin Moves to Open Nearly All Offshore Waters to Drilling
    on January 5, 2018 at 1:59 am

    The Trump administration will allow new offshore oil and gas drilling in nearly all United States waters, it announced Thursday. The plan would give the energy industry broad access to drilling rights in most parts of the outer continental shelf, including Pacific waters near California, Atlantic waters near Maine and the eastern Gulf of Mexico. […]