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Situation Report: U.S. and Korea Respond to North Korean missile test; No good options; and a bit more.

Situation Report: U.S. and Korea Respond to North Korean missile test; No good options; and a bit more.

By David Francis, Adam Rawnsley, and FP Staff

U.S. and Korea respond to North Korean missile test with military exercises. The drills took place in South Korean territorial waters along the country’s eastern coastline after North Korea’s latest launch. The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe: “The Army used its Army Tactical Missile System and South Korea used its Hyunmoo Missile II, which can be deployed rapidly and provide ‘deep strike precision capability.’” More here.

‘No Good Options’ For North Korea: North Korea’s latest missile test leaves the United States with “no good options,” and “virtually no diplomatic action” to take, former CIA deputy director Michael Morrell told CBS Morning News Tuesday. So what does that leave? Morrell says investing a lot more in missile defense and sanction Kim Jong Un every time he tests Washington’s mettle.

Mixed messages. Trump tweeted this in response to the missile test: “Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all.” The president’s tweet failed to send a clear message to Pyongyang and could further confuse American allies about where the U.S. stands, former White House and State Department official Laura Rosenberger told NPR.

Tillerson Ready to Let Russia Decide Assad’s Fate: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres during a private State Department meeting last week that Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad’s fate now lies in Russia’s hands, in a scoop from FP’s Colum Lynch and Robbie Gramer. Tillerson’s assurances to Guterres could signal the Trump administration’s willingness to let Russia decide Syria’s fate while it gets tunnel vision on defeating ISIS.

No wider war in Syria. The White House held a principals meeting last Friday to discuss Syria and Iran amid an ongoing internal debate about how to deal with Tehran’s proxies that have already clashed with U.S. forces in southeastern Syria. It’s pretty clear what the U.S. military’s preference is — focus on Islamic State and avoid being drawn into a wider war. Mattis didn’t leave much doubt about his view last week.

Welcome to Situation Report. Your regular presenter, Paul McLeary, is out for a few days, but will be back next week. You can reach him at paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com or either he or Adam on Twitter @paulmcleary and @arawnsley.

From Pyongyang with love. “American bastards probably won’t like our Independence Day gift, but we’ll keep sending anyway to keep them busy, ha!” — Kim Jong-un, sending his fondest Fourth of July greetings to America after Monday’s missile launch.

The Qatar standoff continues. The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour: “Gulf states are preparing to ramp up economic sanctions against Qatar, as well as widening its diplomatic isolation and suspending it from the Gulf Cooperation Council, senior Gulf diplomats have indicated.” More here.

Das Autos in Iran. For the first time in 17 years, the iconic German automaker Volkswagen will sell cars in Iran. The company, plagued by an diesel-cheat scandal in recent years, said it will begin selling its Tuesday its Tiguan and Passat models in August. Volkswagen is one of the first major international corporations to attempt to do business in Iran after a 2015 deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program opened the Iranian economy — slightly — to the world.

Buffers. Russia may soon be sending troops to police a deal hammered out over de-escalation zones in Syria, Reuters reports. The deal, agreed between Russia, Iran, and Turkey, calls for buffer zones in Idlib, East Ghouta, Homs, and Daraa, but until recently the three countries had not specified how to implement the zones. Russian negotiator Alexander Lavrentyev says Russian military police could be deployed to patrol the zones something within the next month.

Incoming. Germany is bracing for Russian intelligence to try and intervene in its upcoming elections, with Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere warning that Moscow may use the fruits of a 2015 hack of the country’s parliament to try to embarrass candidates and parties it dislikes. Massen, however, says he’s not sure if Russia would root for a particular campaign or just seek to sow public distrust in Germany’s election system.

Special delivery. The U.S. packed up a Philippine military C-130 with munitions to help out with the country’s fight against Islamist militants holed up in the southern city of Marawi. Philippine troops have been fighting the Islamic State-affiliated group, formerly known as Abu Sayyaf, in Marawi after an attempt to capture its leader, Isnilon Hapilon. The U.S. is also planning to send ScanEagle drones to the Philippines to help in its counterterrorism efforts.  

Feedback. State Department employees are not happy with the way things are going at Foggy Bottom according to a study commissioned by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The Wall Street Journal got an advance look at the report, which concludes that employees “do not speak optimistically about the future,” citing grievances over department bureaucracy, Trump administration cuts to budget and personnel, the slow pace of appointing senior officials, and the absorption of USAID.

Plots. French authorities say they disrupted a terrorist plot to assassinate French President Emmanuel Macron during President Trump’s upcoming Bastille Day visit. Police arrested a suspect, thus far unnamed, who said he wanted to kill “blacks, Arabs, Jews and homosexuals” and target Macron during a parade on the French independence holiday.

Kaspersky. The Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab has a Russian military intelligence unit number in its official certification documents, according to records obtained by McClatchy. The number, which appears in Federal Security Service paperwork, adds fuel to speculation about the firm’s relationship with Russian intelligence, recently fanned by a proposal in the U.S. Congress to ban Kaspersky products from use in government. Kaspersky, which has repeatedly denied acting on behalf of intelligence agencies, said the documents were routine official paperwork to ensure their software is secure.

Report cards. The Air Force is moving to classify whether nuclear weapons facilities have passed or failed their required nuclear inspections, according to the AP. The service swears that the secrecy for the previously-released results is designed to safeguard nuclear weapons vulnerabilities, but experts are suspicious, particularly as the move follows a series of embarrassing safety and security failures with the Air Force’s nuclear operations.

Radio Moscow. Russia’s controversial state-owned English-language news channel Sputnik is getting its own FM radio station in Washington, DC.

Photo of the day. French President Emmanuel Macron gets winched down aboard “Le Terrible,” France’s nuclear submarine, for a visit.