DPRK threatens to pull the plug on Kim-Trump summit
Pyongyang backed out of scheduled talks with Seoul on Wednesday in retaliation against the ongoing military exercises between the US and South Korea. DPRK officials stated that it would now think twice about the summit between Kim Jon-un and Donald Trump which was scheduled for this June.
North Korea’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs hurled allegations at the US officials of going against their intentions for dialogue by putting pressure on DPRK to forego its nuclear weapons program before having any relief in sanctions. Meanwhile, a South Korean official expressed his belief in North Korea’s commitment to abandoning its nuclear weapons stating that the cancellation of talks is a ‘pain we must endure to get good results.’
‘North Korea and the U.S. agreed on the big picture, but they still have different ideas on a detailed process. Pyongyang is trying to boost its negotiation power with such actions,’ says Jin Chang-soo as she spoke with the Nikkei Asian Review.
In an interview with the Korea Times, Shin Beom-chul said, ‘With the drills as a pretext, Pyongyang is indirectly expressing discontent at the recent hard-line stances from Washington, such as moving the North’s nuclear weapons to the U.S., removing biochemical weapons and raising an issue of human rights abuse.’
Meanwhile in their piece for Foreign Affairs, Robert Jervis and Mira Rapp-Hooper were of the view: ‘South Korea’s objectives largely align with those of the United States. But because a conflict would inevitably spill onto its own soil, South Korea is more likely to privilege political solutions over military ones.’
Pakistan and Afghanistan finalize Joint Action Plan for Peace
Diplomats from Afghanistan and Pakistan have concluded their fourth meeting in Islamabad and come to an agreement on a joint action plan between the two countries. The plan is known as the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS). According to the agreed principles, Pakistan would support the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process to bring peace to Afghanistan while both sides would take action against fugitives and irreconcilable elements that pose a threat to either country.
This development takes place amid high tensions between Kabul and Islamabad. Afghan officials have been hurling accusations at Pakistan of supporting the Taliban in waging war in the region and providing safe heavens to their leadership including other militant groups. However, Islamabad has been quick to brush these accusations aside. In this regard, the APAPPS comes as a positive step in the right direction.
However according to Shahzadah Massoud, a political analyst, ‘It is just a waste of time, nothing will be achieved by Pakistan, because Pakistan has for long adopted a dual policy and unfortunately Pakistan is still continuing with the same policy.’
Middle East & North Africa
Gaza protests in full flow despite bloodshed
Palestinian protests in Gaza and the West Bank remain in full flow despite massive bloodshed over the past week, particularly on Monday. The protests were especially vibrant on Nakba Day which marks the exodus of the Palestinians and the simultaneous independence of Israel.
At least 60 people were murdered by the Israeli forces as thousands had gathered near the Israel-Gaza border to protest against the opening of US embassy in Jerusalem. The UN Security council also met on the past Tuesday at the request of Kuwait to discuss the escalating tensions and violence.
‘Even if you completely dismiss the Palestinian right of return—which I find harder to do now that Israel’s leadership has all but abandoned the possibility of a Palestinian state—it hardly excuses the Israeli military’s disproportionate violence,’ Michelle Goldberg stated in an article for the New York Times.
CFR President Richard N. Haass has this to say on the issue: ‘[There was] no discernible upside and considerable downside [to moving the embassy]: the United States played a big card for nothing, weakened its claim to be honest broker, [and] helped to fuel violence.’
Meanwhile in a piece for Time magazine, Nathan Thrall opined, ‘Both Jewish nationalism and Palestinian nationalism came to be defined by the idea of return.’
Sub Saharan Africa
Ebola spreads deeper in DRC
The Health Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) stated recently that the Ebola virus has spread its tentacles deeper into the country as a case of the virus was detected in the urban center of Mbandaka. The WHO has sent various experimental vaccines to the area but the outcomes are still ambiguous. The current outbreak is estimated to have killed 23 people among 40 known cases up till now.
In an interview with the Conversation, Chikwe Ihekweazu stated, ‘The [DRC] has good systems for diagnosing the disease—its reference laboratory was able to test and confirm cases within 24 hours. But when it comes to surveillance and monitoring its systems are weak.’
‘Some experts also suspect deforestation could be a factor [in Ebola outbreaks], bringing infected animals and people together in the area when they may cut down trees,’ Dina Fine Maron opines in her commentary for Scientific American.
In an article for Foreign Policy, Laurie Garrett is of the following view: ‘There is no good reason [for the Trump administration] to rescind the 252 million dollars in funds to combat the deadly virus, at a time when there are signs of a renewed outbreak that could pose a threat to Americans.’
Putin and Merkel have a rendezvous in Sochi
The Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed the German Chancellor Angela Merkel on 18th May in her first trip to Russia in over a year. Both the leaders held talks over various issues ranging from the Ukraine conflict to the US withdrawal from the JCPOA. The leaders also talked about the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project which is set to carry gas from Russia to Germany. Putin said that the gas may still be supplied to Ukraine even after the project is completed. Anglea Merkel reiterated this statement by saying that ‘Germany believes Ukraine’s role as a transit country should continue after the construction of Nord Stream 2… it has a strategic importance.’
Angela Merkel’s trip to Russia comes at a time when tensions between Berlin and Moscow are rising. Germany has led the line when it came to putting sanctions against Russia ever since it annexed Crimea in 2014 and threw its weight behind the separatist forces in eastern Ukraine; a move which led to a war that has killed more than 10 thousand people.
However, Merkel has continued to lend her support to the Nord Stream 2 project despite her hard stance against Russia. She has defended the pipeline constantly arguing that Germany is in an urgent need to secure its gas supplies. Berlin has given its approval to the project in recent months and the pipeline is expected to go online by the end of the following despite protests by Kyiv arguing that it undermines the EU sanctions.
Indonesia falls prey to terror again
A police station in the Indonesian island of Sumatra was attacked by four men who were armed with firearms and samurai swords. The attacks killed one officer and wounded two others. The police were able to retaliate and kill the murderers. However, one assailant was arrested after he attempted to escape in a vehicle.
Indonesia is on high alert following the recent waves of terror attacks across the country. Just last week, a family was responsible for several attacks on the same day targeting churches. Meanwhile another family was responsible for a suicide attack on a police building which killed at least 10 people. The attacks have been claimed by Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD); an offshoot of Islamic State (IS) who has found resurgence and a new life on the islands of Indonesia in recent months.
Maduro looks to strengthen his hold over Venezuela
President Nicolas Maduro has extended his mandate by another six years in a snap election this Sunday, which has been decried as illegitimate by many a country across Europe and America. The early elections were announced in a response to the long-standing humanitarian and economic crisis which has rattled the country and has been responsible for the exodus of thousands of refugees.
‘Since announcing it would hold a 2018 presidential election, Maduro’s government has severely limited who can appear on the ballot. Four of the five most prominent opposition leaders have been either jailed or barred from office—a main reason for the boycott,’ Marco Aponte-Moreno is of the view in his article for the Conversation.
In an article for the Americas Quarterly, Felix Seijas opines: ‘Falcon [may see] his candidacy as an opportunity to boost his standing among opposition supporters and, following the election, become a more prominent leader in resistance to the Maduro government.’
‘The situation in Venezuela could also be an opportunity for Russia and China to expand their emerging strategic partnership with nations in the Western Hemisphere. Both countries are increasingly using their military ties to counter U.S. influence around the world,’ Brian Fonseca states in his analysis for Foreign Policy.