North Korea has ratcheted up tension with the US another notch by stating that it would be ready to fire missiles in to the waters off Guam by mid-August, adding that President Trump is “bereft of reason” – an ironic but perhaps not unfair comment.
It is just rhetoric for now but the risk is that both leaders box themselves in, meaning that one miscalculation could spark a conflict.
Yesterday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defence James Mattis attempted to mitigate the impact of the bellicose language used by their boss. Speaking from the comfort of his New Jersey golf club, President Trump had warned the North Korean regime that they face “fire and fury like the world has never seen”. He followed up with a couple of tweets: “My first order as President was to renovate and modernise our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before. Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!”
As an aside, it was actually President Obama who ordered the review which Trump refers to, and the US’s nuclear arsenal was nearly five times larger during the Cold War than it is now.
Trump’s “my stick is bigger than yours” rhetoric is a simplistic approach to a complex global issue. It is widely agreed that the US would win any war on the Korean Peninsula. But at what cost? And what comes next?
A unified Korea is the eventual goal but how would 25 million severely malnourished North Koreans be assimilated? On average, North Korean males are 1.5-3 inches shorter than their South Korean counterparts.
And would China tolerate a pro-US Korea on its doorstep?
Let’s hope the route to that outcome is a peaceful one.
The former chief of staff to David Davis has labelled Brexit a catastrophe and suggested that leading Brexit campaigners should be jailed for claiming that there would be an extra £350 million a week for the NHS during referendum campaign. In a series of tweets, James Chapman, who was formerly political editor at the Daily Mail and special adviser to George Osborne before taking on the role at the Department for Exiting the EU, advocated that a new party – the Democrats – be established to fight against Brexit.
An annual survey of school pupils has shown that the number of young people in England and Wales who say they are unlikely to go to university has climbed to its highest level in a decade. The poll, conducted by Ipsos Mori on behalf of the Sutton Trust, is likely to feed the debate over the cost of tuition fees and student debt. A study by the Institute of Fiscal Studies published last month showed that graduates in England have the highest student debt in the developed world and three-quarters of university leavers would never pay off their loans.
The chief constable of Northumbria Police has had to defend his force after a child rapist acted as a paid informant as part of Operation Sanctuary. Steve Ashman insisted that the information led to the arrest of 18 individuals who were convicted at Newcastle Crown Court yesterday. However, the NSPCC has said that this “crossed the line” and could have placed some victims at greater risk.
Business and Economy
The growth in property prices is slowing to a standstill and the falling prices are spreading from London to other parts of the South East, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). However, others areas, including Northern Ireland, the West Midlands and the South West, saw price growth in July. Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at RICS, blamed tax changes and the lack of new homes for the slowdown.
The Bank of England could be ordered to appear before the Treasury select committee to explain the lessons learnt from the debacle regarding Charlotte Hogg’s short tenure as deputy governor. Hogg had failed to disclose that her brother, Quintin Hogg, was a director at Barclays, which she would have regulated. A report found that routine personnel policies had not been followed and Nicky Morgan, who was elected chair of the committee last month, has said she would like to hear how recommendations will be implemented.
Approval for 21st Century Fox’s proposed takeover of Sky will likely come in the first half of 2018 the company has said. Fox had hoped to conclude the £12 billion deal in 2017 but has been delayed by regulators, with concerns that it would give the Murdoch family, which already owns The Times and The Sun, too much control over UK news. Fox already owns a minority stake in Sky and is hoping to buy the 61% of shares that it does not own.
All major European share indexes were down yesterday after a car hit a group of soldiers in Paris in what was described as a deliberate act, and North Korea said it was considering attacking the US territory of Guam.
The FTSE 100 ended trading down 44.67 points to 7,498.06.
G4S was the biggest faller, closing the day down 4.7% despite reporting a 7.6% increase in first-half profits. Chief executive Ashley Almanza said it would sell off more underperforming assets this year and Stifel analysts pointed to operating cash flow being weaker year-on-year.
On the currency markets, the pound fell against the dollar to $1.2998 and was up against the euro to 1.1060 euros.
Aldermore Group, Amec Foster Wheeler, Triatix Big Box Reit, Capital & Regional, Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI), Cineworld Group, Derwent Group, Evraz, Glanbia, Glencore, Hill & Smith Holdings, Ibstock, North Midland Construction, Pagegroup, Prudential, Vitec Group
Blue Planet Investment Trust, Creightons, Invesco Asia Trust, Investec, Terra Capital
HSS Hire Group, TT Electronics
UK Economic Announcements
(00:01) RICS Housing Market Survey
(09:30) Balance of Trade
(09:30) Industrial Production
(09:30) Manufacturing Production
International Economic Announcements
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(13:30) Producer Price Index (US)
Columns of note
In his column for The Times, David Aaranovitch dissects an article in The Atlantic by Jean M Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, in which she says that the generation born between 1995 and 2012 is facing the worst mental health crisis in decades due to smartphone use. In his critique, Aaranovitch argues that this reflects the “psychological need we seem to have to worry about the next generation and its failings”, pointing out that in 1887, the New York Times ran this headline: “Excessive use of bicycle fatal”.
Writing in the Financial Times, David Pilling outlines the positive impact that democracy has brought to Africa, pointing to high voter turnouts in elections across the continent and the changes that have been introduced as a response to the will of the people. This is despite severe challenges and Pilling asserts that Africa’s people are ready for democracy even if their leaders are not.
Did you know?
France’s last guillotine execution took place in September 1977 – four months after the first Star Wars film was released.