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Trump Blames Trade War for Breakdown of North Korea Nuclear Talks

If only there was something he could do about those tariffs...

JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS/NewscomJONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS/NewscomPresident Donald Trump's trade war has disrupted international supply chains, raised prices for the raw materials used by American manufacturers, caused some businesses to shut down or to lay off workers, and forced others to come to Washington to beg for their survival.

But now the tariffs are causing pain for someone who really matters: Donald Trump.

Trump tweeted Friday that, as a consequence of the escalating trade war between the U.S. and China, Chinese officials are no longer pressuring North Korea to shut down its nuclear weapons program.

Trump has tried to take most of the credit for the recent eased tensions between North Korea and the U.S., but there's no mistaking the fact that China plays an important role in how the world deals with North Korea. China is North Korea's main trading partner and its primary supplier of food and energy. As such, it can put a unique kind of pressure on Kim's regime.

But with the White House seemingly determined to hit half (or maybe all) of Chinese imports with tariffs before the end of the year, the Chinese government has apparently stopped its backchannel efforts to get North Korea to denuclearize. Or at least that's what Trump says:

Despite the flippant way he delivered the news, this is no small admission from Trump. Recall the amount of pomp and circumstance that surrounded the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore. There were even commemorative coins minted before any deal had been struck—and there was talk, not just among Trump's right-wing media supporters but also from members of Congress, about how Trump deserved the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing North Korea to the table.

Since then? Well, the agreement seems to have been little more a flimsy, unenforceable framework. North Korea does not seem interested in full denuclearization—though they haven't carried out any new tests since the June meeting either.

Getting North Korea to denuclearize, or even merely getting them to behave in a more stable way as one of the world's accepted nuclear powers, will require sustained pressure and careful diplomatic maneuvering. The Trump administration does not seem to have the attention span for any of that, so outsourcing those efforts to China (and South Korea) makes a lot of practical sense. Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit Pyongyang next month to acknowledge the 70th anniversary of North Korea's founding, The Washington Post reports.

If the trade war drives a wedge between the U.S. and China on the North Korea issue—as Trump suggests it has—then the trade war might very well cost Trump one of his few true achievements in office.

There's a broader lesson here too. Trade makes the world more peaceful. Countries that do a lot of trading end up being invested in each others' interests—a result of the fact that it is people within those countries doing the trading, not the governments themselves.

An important corollary to this fact is that countries which do not trade end up not having many friends. Like North Korea. Or Cuba, which America deliberately isolated for many years as a way to punish its leaders.

China and the U.S. have 800 billion reasons to work together to solve regional and global problems—especially problems that affect both countries, such as dangerous nuclear-armed dictators. But tariffs cause geopolitical dysfunction. Trump has no one but himself to blame for the collapse of North Korean diplomacy.

Photo Credit: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS/Newscom

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  • Eddy||

    If this is true, then Trump is showing a degree of candor which I had not anticipated from him.

  • Eddy||

    I would have thought he'd say something like "now they'll blame North Korea's uncooperative attitude on my America First trade policy. Sad!"

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    He's varying degrees of transparent, the likes of which we've never seen before.

  • Eddy||

    Sometimes he reveals more of himself than at other times. He wants to keep the audience interested.

    Or am I thinking of strippers?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Both?

  • Just Say'n||

    This argument totally makes sense, because the Chinese were really pressuring the North Koreans to abandon its nuclear program when we were not imposing tariffs on them

  • Just Say'n||

    Oh wait, I made a mistake. I meant this makes absolutely no sense, unless you just started paying attention to the actions of China after January 2016.

  • Just Say'n||

    What has changed with regards to Chinese actions toward North Korea between 2006 and 2018?

    Now they can pretend like not cooperating in reducing the threat of North Korea is due to trade tariffs. Just ignore all of their inaction before then. History began in 2016 for some

  • Jerryskids||

    You mean the actions of the Chinese puppetmasters making their puppet dance and sing and pretend to respect the whims of a US president the Chinese had sussed as a fat-headed loud-mouthed simpleton easily swayed by pretty words and shiny objects?

  • Just Say'n||

    I'm sorry, are you under the impression that I'm defending the president in some way here? Do you ever think beyond the president or is your worldview binary between anti-Trump and pro-Trump.

    Spoiler: the Chinese haven't changed anything about their policy with regards to North Korea and no amount of tariffs or lack thereof has changed that.

  • Just Say'n||

    It is hilarious, though, how the same people who say that the president is always lying and is a buffoon who knows nothing about anything (all fine positions to hold) are now saying "well, except for his single remark on Chinese tariffs now. On that one he's totally right or something. Please don't research Chinese actions with regards to North Korea since the 90's, just take us at our word"

  • loveconstitution1789||

    +1

  • Just Say'n||

    "There's a broader lesson here too. Trade makes the world more peaceful. Countries that do a lot of trading end up being invested in each others' interests—a result of the fact that it is people within those countries doing the trading, not the governments themselves."

    Now do tariffs against Russia that your publication endorsed

  • Happy Chandler||

    Reason has never supported tariffs on Russia. Sanctions targeted to those individuals and organizations enabling bad actions, and not the country/world as a whole are not tariffs.

  • Just Say'n||

    Oh, so like Iran sanctions. So those are OK, too?

    Keep splitting hairs to defend your hypocrisy

  • Just Say'n||

    The people who default to an anti-Trump position regardless of what the topic is are just as stupid as the president. Their ideas rest on a series of contradictions. Sanctions against Iran are bad, because Trump likes them, but sanctions against Russia are good, because Trump doesn't like them (even though he's increased them).

    Profoundly dumb.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    I think Happy is stating correctly that Reason has never written to be in agreement with any tariffs, whether tariffs on Russia or any other country.

    And tariffs are not sanctions.

  • Just Say'n||

    www.reason.com/archives/2017/0.....libertaria

    From the article:

    "Aside from a verbal commitment to liberal democracy and the rule of law, what can Western countries do to curb Russia's anti-liberal influence without risking military conflict? Economic sanctions—particularly when they target the Russian political elite and its properties abroad, as opposed to targeting ordinary Russian consumers—can be more effective than they are often believed to be. The desire to avoid further and harsher sanctions, for example, may have helped persuade the Putin regime to abandon its territorial ambitions in eastern Ukraine and to scale down its war in that region to a simmering conflict.

    The threat of stronger sanctions could be used to push for genuine enforcement of the 2014–15 Minsk agreements, which were supposed to restore Ukraine's control over the territories currently ruled by the thuggish "people's republics" of Donetsk and Luhansk. Russia's backsliding toward open contempt for those agreements was signaled in February by a decision to "temporarily" recognize identity documents issued by the two gangster statelets."

  • Just Say'n||

    Now let's due Iran sanctions:

    www.reason.com/blog/2018/08/07.....to-inflame

    "It's laughable to think these sanctions will get the country to come to the table, let alone agree to U.S. demands that it open all its military facilities to international inspection, roll back its support for pro-Iranian factions across the Middle East, and become best friends with Israel. At best, this attitude shows a naive belief that threats and bullying will convince the world's nations just to lay down and accept U.S. demands. At worst, it suggests that the Trump administration is not really interested in coming to an agreement with Iran at all."

  • Happy Chandler||

    "It's laughable to think these sanctions will get the country to come to the table..."

    There's a large difference between internationally coordinated, targeted sanctions such as the Magnitsky sanctions that affect specific individuals and do not impoverish the citizenry and single nation, non-targeted sanctions such as the Iranian ones.

  • Just Say'n||

    So your position has changed from "these aren't tariffs" to well these sanctions are different from the other sanctions that I support.

  • Just Say'n||

    Also, Europe isn't so keen on our Russian sanctions, so I'm not sure what international support you think the US has on these sanctions, but I'm sure the Daily Kos will provide you with some good talking points

  • Just Say'n||

    So you and Happy are wrong.

    Like I said, the people who base their politics on what the president's position is have an ideology of contradiction

  • Just Say'n||

    If sanctions aren't tariffs, then why not label all the tariffs against China as sanctions. Then we can't have a problem with them, right?

  • Happy Chandler||

    Because tariffs and sanctions are different, and it's not just a label?

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Because tariffs and sanctions are different, and it's not just a label?

    Since Reason considers both to be forms of economic punishment that should be avoided, the equivalence isn't a false one.

  • Just Say'n||

    You're right. The difference is that sanctions completely eliminates trade, while tariffs adds a tax.

  • Cyto||

    Getting North Korea to denuclearize, or even merely getting them to behave in a more stable way as one of the world's accepted nuclear powers, will require sustained pressure and careful diplomatic maneuvering.

    Really? What would make you say that?

    I know, it is just a toss-off nothing of a line. A simple truism that carries no information other than to set the writer up as being correct, no matter what the outcome is.

    But what in the world makes anyone thing you can "get North Korea" to do anything? They don't have a normal political structure, they are not the least bit responsive to their people... heck, look at the size differential between North Koreans and South Koreans. If malnutrition is so rampant in your country that people are a couple of inches shorter than they should be and you don't have a mass revolt, you don't have to respond to the will of the people in any way.

  • Cyto||

    If their current "dear leader" decides that he'd like to have ties with the outside world then yes, you can use diplomacy and pressure and whatever else. But as long as they are content to remain an isolated cult-nation, they can do whatever they want and there's not really anything we can do to change their behavior short of military action.

    The only hope for real leverage is to break down that isolation. If they were entangled in international trade, then there would be a lever that the international community could use to get them to conform. It seemed like that was the direction Trump was headed. It remains to be seen if Kim will go with him. If he does, it will likely lead to the end of the cult - eventually. Perhaps Kim has seen this future and decided it was better that his people remain starving.

  • Shirley Knott||

    You just don't understand — it's N-dimensional whack-a-mole. Easy to win, no unintended consequences, perfectly straightforward.
    Ah hah hah hah hah!!!!!

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Youre still eating the checkers pieces, I see.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Wait wait wait. I thought the tariffs were eleventy dimensional chess to get North Korea to stop its nuke program.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    It's all just kinda a joke at this point. I think Dave Smith mentioned something like this on one of his podcasts, that he is glad that Trump is president because it's just a neverending source of amusement.

  • Just Say'n||

    Remember when we didn't have tariffs with China and they were very cooperative in restraining North Korea? Yeah, neither do I.

  • ||

    There's also the little issue of China not exactly playing by WTO rules since its inception.

  • Just Say'n||

    I don't care about that. Tariffs are bad. But Chinese is actually a rebuttal to the notion that trade liberalizes countries and diffuses tensions between nations and yet were pretending as if China was a good actor before tariffs all based off of a statement by Trump.

    This is peak silly

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Exactly.

  • ||

    That's my point. It's ridiculous. I agree.

  • Happy Chandler||

    China's freedom has not increased since the WTO?

    They are still terrible actors. But, private industry is now a thing there. Tens of millions are moving to the cities and becoming middle class.

    The treatment of ethnic and religious minorities is horrific. But, to pretend that they aren't more free because of trade ignores reality.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    But Chinese is actually a rebuttal to the notion that trade liberalizes countries and diffuses tensions between nations

    I'll add that to pretend that the amount of trade between the US and China hasn't had any effect on our relations with China is also ignoring all the evidence to the contrary.

    We were fighting proxy wars against the last communist world power. What's different in the relationship with China? Our countries aren't isolated from each other economically.

  • Just Say'n||

    I don't dispute that trade makes peace between nations and that there have been reduced tensions between the US and China since trade resumed. That's really the only reason to support managed trade.

    But the deescalation of tensions between the US and China began in the 70's. The point of the article, based off of the most ignorant man on trade, is to suggest that somehow China would be more helpful in North Korean de-nuclearization if it weren't for tariffs. That would be compelling if all the evidence to the contrary didn't exist.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    I don't disagree with you. I was arguing more against your broader assertion.

    I think Eric is arguing from the standpoint that it appeared that we were making headway with NK and that China was a part of it. I'm not sure that I believe in even the former assertion. The Trump/Kim summit was a good thing, but I'm afraid that Kim was really just after the photo op.

    IF we are serious about NK negotiations, however, Trump appears to not have considered he might need China to apply pressure prior to this silly trade war thing.

  • Just Say'n||

    I don't think China was applying any pressure and tariffs or no tariffs would not have changed that. China has been playing this same ruse since Clinton. Why should we have believed that this time would have been different if it were not for Trump's tariffs?

    I think we are trying to explain away a foreign policy conundrum that has existed since the 90's with recent bad economic posturing. I don't think the two are really related all that much.

  • Just Say'n||

    Spoiler: They aren't more free, at all. "Private industry" managed by state actors (which has been a thing in China since before they entered the WTO) is no more free-market than fascist Italy was.

    I'm always perplexed with progressives, such as yourself, who will defend China to the hilt, while pretending like Russia is the most evil boogeyman in the world. China's government is substantially worse than Russia's in terms of oppression, not because Russia is a good actor, but because China is a more efficient and competent state.

  • Happy Chandler||

    You're perplexed because you argue straw men.
    Talking about the best path to improve relations and foreign country respect for human rights is not a judgement on the relative goodness of the governments.

  • Just Say'n||

    What straw man? You defend sanctions against Russia because they are the number one baddie in your warped mind and then take issue with Chinese tariffs, because all you know you read from HuffPo.

    Your position makes absolutely no sense. If trade is good for foreign relations, which I agree with, then how can you support any trade sanctions?

    Nothing has changed with China, tariffs or not, because tariffs and trade sanctions are ineffective policy tools.

  • Just Say'n||

    This half-cocked brand of selective free-trade is so transparently all about mouthing progressive talking points while couching them in some really bad arguments about how important free trade is (but only sometimes)

  • Happy Chandler||

    Free trade with Russia. Targeted sanctions on certain actors involved in certain actions. We have free trade with Russia. We also have sanctions against people in Russia. I'd support the same in China.

    Your straw man makes no sense. That's what straw men are for.

    Sanctions against Cuba were bad because they were against the Cuban people. The sanctions against Russia are not against the Russian people. We can still buy vodka and caviar. Lada cars are sold in Germany. Cuban cigars could not be sold here. Persian rugs.

    Sanctions can be good and can be bad.

  • Just Say'n||

    First of all: we have "free trade" with no one. I don't even think it's possible, due to the same reason why economic collusion between private actors is impossible. The best we can have is managed trade that benefits one sector of the economy to the detriment of another sector of the economy.

    Secondly, the Russian sanctions are targeted toward certain industries that are friendly with the ruling government. Just as the sanctions on Iran are designed the same way. This still increases costs for the Russian and Iranian people on the goods that they purchase.

    Sanctions are never good and bad- they are only bad. I repeat: This half-cocked brand of selective free-trade is so transparently all about mouthing progressive talking points while couching them in some really bad arguments about how important free trade is (but only sometimes)

  • Happy Chandler||

    Free trade does not mean zero barriers. That's called a customs union. Making that argument is misusing semantics to block discussion of actual issues.

    Sanctions have nothing to do with free trade arguments. Different reasons, different tactics, different enforcement, etc. Refusing to do business with bad actors is not the same as taxing American consumers.

  • Happy Chandler||

    Free trade does not mean zero barriers. That's called a customs union. Making that argument is misusing semantics to block discussion of actual issues.

    Sanctions have nothing to do with free trade arguments. Different reasons, different tactics, different enforcement, etc. Refusing to do business with bad actors is not the same as taxing American consumers.

  • Just Say'n||

    "Free trade" literally means "free trade". Managed trade is what we have and is likely the best that can be done. Even in custom unions like the EU there isn't "free trade". There are special carve outs for certain industries.

    Notice how many caveats and over explanations you must make to justify your position. That's usually a sure sign that your argument is garbage. You can't say you oppose tariffs and then make stupid exceptions just because your politics dictates that you make those exceptions.

    Your entire belief system is based upon unending contradictions.

  • Just Say'n||

    "Refusing to do business with bad actors is not the same as taxing American consumers."

    Spoiler: you are still taxing American consumers. If you don't think eliminating a competitor from trading in your market will increase costs for consumers than you are profoundly ignorant about why trade is better than no trade.

  • Happy Chandler||

    That's not a tax. Yes, regulations can cause higher prices sometimes. But, that ignores the external costs involved with the results of that trade.

    A customs union has free trade. Trading between Germany and France is like trading between California and Nevada. There are no passport controls or customs to pass through. That's why it's a customs union.

    What's the difference between free trade and managed trade? Other than semantics. You seem to say that free trade doesn't exist and possibly will never happen?

  • Just Say'n||

    "Trading between Germany and France is like trading between California and Nevada."

    Sure, it's exactly the same, because Nevada has special protections for its small agricultural sector that prevents California from undercutting the prices of their crops.

    You clearly don't understand how any of this works. You're just reflexively pro-whatever you perceive as the opposite of Trump's position, which explains why your entire basis of argumentation is to split hairs and then engage in verbal gymnastics where you redefine every word.

  • Happy Chandler||

    Why, thanks for telling me what I think, where I get my information, and how I'm wrong.

    On every count, you get me wrong.

    As for the prosecutors...what exactly are you talking about?

  • Happy Chandler||

    You're the one trying to redefine sanctions and tariffs as the same thing. What word have I tried to redefine?

    You took an article that said "these sanctions" won't work and pretended that Reason argued no sanctions work, and they took the opposite view on Russian sanctions, which are different, and therefore, Reason supported tariffs, which are the same as sanctions.

    And you try to say I do verbal gymnastics?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Free trade means zero trade restrictions.

    tar·iff
    noun
    1. a tax or duty to be paid on a particular class of imports or exports.

    sanc·tion
    noun
    1. a threatened penalty for disobeying a law or rule.

  • Happy Chandler||

    So nothing that has existed, and something that is not on the table?

  • Ken Shultz||

    If we end up with a better NAFTA agreement, I wonder who Boehm will blame that on.

    My bet is we hear it's not actually an improvement.

  • Just Say'n||

    Trump blamed his sanctions for this. So, no one needed to invent blame. He blamed his own policies.

  • Just Say'n||

    Also, Trump is an idiot and his Tweet makes no sense. But, in this instance we are all suppose to believe that he is correct this one time. Just ignore all the history of US-China relations with regards to North Korea, because that upsets the narrative.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I don't think you understood what I wrote.

    Who will "blame" for a better agreement?

    That's giving credit. Are you not aware that Trump is on TV right now announcing with Mexico that we've got a new trade agreement with them?

    Incidentally, we're probably only having talking with North Korea because of Trump's trade war, too. It's all interrelated.

  • Just Say'n||

    I don't buy it. The changes to NAFTA will be cosmetic and the North Koreans would have talked with any American president who would have willingly met with them.

    Trump gets points for meeting with the North Koreans, but his maneuvers to pressure countries through trade tariffs is not bearing fruit

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I think giving Trump 6 months or a year to pressure trading partners is a fair amount of time to see if it works. The trading partners cannot know they only need to hold out for 6 months of the pressure would not work.

    The EU cracked within 5 weeks and now Mexico and Canada have agreed to lower trade restrictions within 90 days. Its bearing fruit but the Communists of China and Socialists of Europe are hard-headed against freer trade. It might take some time.

    North Korea talks bore fruit as Trump got 55 boxes of American MIA remains and NK scaled back their nuke program a tiny bit. To be fair, Obama also got MIA remains IIRC.

  • Just Say'n||

    No one cracked on anything. What is wrong with everyone here? You either have nimrods like Happy splitting hairs to defend his ridiculous hypocrisy or you have Trump defenders pushing fantasy.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Mexico and Canada caved to Trump's strategy that pressure on trade will get better terms for the USA.

  • Happy Chandler||

    Explain why the terms are better.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    That and the media cannot tell the truth if their life depended on it.

    Trump distracts the media and then gets stuff behind the scenes because the media are out destroy anything he does. The media hates Trump but hates America's success more.

  • Pompey:何 Class Mothersmucker||

    Four. Dimensional. Chess. QED.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    LOL at initial NAFTA renegotiation. Republicans for regulations (more domestic parts required) and minimum wages!

    Source

    On a separate call with reporters, Lighthizer highlighted some big changes that negotiators from both countries agreed to.

    - Auto manufacturing: The new deal would require that 75% of the parts in any car sold in North America be produced in the United States or Mexico. Currently, about 62% of parts are required to be produced in the United States, Mexico or Canada.
    - Higher labor standards: The new deal would require that 40% to 45% of auto parts in cars sold be made by workers earning at least $16 USD per hour.
    - Sunset clause: The agreement will last for 16 years, and will be reviewed every six years.
  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    So Ken... is this the "improvement" that you wanted for free trade?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Did you hear Boehm, the USA, Mexico, and Canada agreed to lower trade restrictions under NAFTA?

    Trump's aggressive trade policy has cracked Canada and Mexico into agreeing to lower trade restrictions.

  • John||

    But the smart has informed me that even trying to get a deal was suicide. It was going to be a TRADE WAR!! and be the end of everything. Somehow it is Trump who is an idiot not the people who believe utter nonsense like no trade deal can ever be re negotiated without destroying the world economy

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    That's quite the straw-man you've built there John. Because the world economy hasn't collapsed means the tariffs are good?

    Hopefully whatever this renegotiation is will be good. I've not seen any details yet. I'll give Trump credit if he can get a better NAFTA.

    This one end still doesn't seem to justify the means, given all of the people who have been hit negatively by Trump's brand of central trade planning. Oh, and you're forgetting that the tariffs keep escalating with China.

  • John||

    That is not a straw man. That is exactly what reason has been claiming since Trump got the nomination. The fact is you and reason are just wrong about the subject. Admit it and stop lying about your position

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Yup John. There is now precedent that threatening higher trade restrictions if you dont lower trade restrictions CAN work.

    It has. Trump was right and his strategy worked. Only with Canada and Mexico but still that is like 2 out of 6 trading partners (If you group the EU as 1). China, EU, Japan, and South Korea being the other major trading partners.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    President Donald Trump's trade war has disrupted international supply chains, raised prices for the raw materials used by American manufacturers, caused some businesses to shut down or to lay off workers, and forced others to come to Washington to beg for their survival has been the most awesomest thing since in the history of ever.

    FTFY /sarc

  • Cy||

    You forgot about SPACE FORCE!!!!!

    *guitar solo*

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    According to NBC/WSJ this new Mexican trade agreement is the TPP warmed over.

  • John||

    Then you should love it. You won't because you are a retard.

  • DesigNate||

    You just loved TPP when Obama was pushing it.

  • ShotgunJimbo||

    This is an extremely thinly veiled excuse for over-promising on Noko, declaring great success at the summit, and then having nothing actually to show for it other than a photo-op. And then further negotiations have been halted / next meeting cancelled because surprise, they don't want to follow through with what we want them to do.

    So rather than admit lack of progress, it's because China "was" helping / going to help (I've got a bridge to sell ya), but big bad trump was so mean to them and the America boosting tariffs made them so mad that they decided to back off...so it's not because he couldn't get a deal or make real progress, it's because China. This might fool a few middle schoolers or the simple minded but it is quite transparent.

    Not far off from calling the election rigged in case he failed to win (though to his credit, he did), and claiming mass voter fraud / illegals when losing the popular vote by a lot. There's always an excuse.

  • mtrueman||

    Why rig an election to win the popular vote? The votes of the electoral college are the only votes that count.

  • Hugh Yonn||

    Breakdown because of the trade war? You mean that thing Trump started?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    After there was already a trade war.

  • Curly4||

    North Korea's Kim cannot even fart without China's permission. China and the US is in a world changing trade spat and China controls what Kim can do, if Kim fails to do what China wants its food and energy is cut off, so China is putting pressure on Kim to not conform to what Trump wants. This will make it harder for Trump to convince China the new agreement would be in its best interests. Well that may not be the case since China wants to replace US as the "King of the Hill" and become the strongest nation in the world.
    The world will be better off if the US is still the "King of the Hill" rather than China.

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