Images reveal construction activities at DPRK nuclear site
Satellite imagery appears to show the construction of new buildings at a missile production site outside of Pyongyang, raising concerns that North Korea is moving ahead with weapons development weeks after a summit between the US and North Korean leaders that was focused on denuclearization.
The images, which were captured by the San Francisco-based Planet Labs and analysed by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, appear to show two buildings on land at the Sanum-dong missile plant that was vacant as of early June. Several US media reports citing unnamed officials say US spy agencies have detected the construction of new missiles at the facility. Officials have yet to comment publicly on the reports.
The Trump administration needs a denuclearization road map that outlines the order in which nuclear dismantlement will take place and the corresponding concessions it is willing to provide in return for each step,’ Duyeon Kim writes for Foreign Policy.
‘Diplomacy can work if the administration is ready to give up on its maximalist goals and engages in the give and take of compromise with North Korea—and if Trump and Pompeo accept that negotiations will be drawn out and difficult, not a quick, easy win,’ Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky opine in an article for the Washington Post.
‘The international community must push the North to seize the moment, stop wasting resources on nuclear weapons and missile development, and launch a comprehensive economic-reform program. Vietnam should be its model,’ Lee Jong-Wha writes for Project Syndicate.
US opposes IMF bailout for Pakistan
A day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned against any International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout that helps China, Pakistan has vowed that ‘third parties’ cannot weaken its resolve as it undertakes its biggest infrastructure and energy development plan with the help of Beijing.
With the new government set to approach the Washington-based lender for the second time in five years, Pompeo said the US looked forward to engagement with Pakistan’s expected new Prime Minister Imran Khan, but said there was ‘no rationale’ for a bailout that pays off Chinese loans to Pakistan.
In response, Pakistan’s Ministry of Finance decried the statement, saying that third parties cannot weaken the country’s resolve in making CPEC a success. The IMF also distanced itself from Pompeo’s statement and said that it remained committed to helping Pakistan.
Middle East & North Africa
Turkish Currency Plunges Following US Sanctions
The Turkish lira fell to a record low after the United States announced sanctions on Turkey’s justice and interior ministers yesterday over the detention of an American pastor Ankara accused of terrorism and espionage.
Turkey called on the United States to reverse the decision, which escalates one of the worst disputes between the NATO allies. The move will prevent the ministers from doing personal business with US entities and freeze any US assets they have. The lira has lost a quarter of its value against the US dollar this year. The pastor, Andrew Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was arrested following a failed 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
‘The dangerous thing about Andrew Brunson’s unjust legal detention is not just Turkey’s hostage diplomacy and the subsequent rift with the US but how the Erdogan regime spins the whole matter as a religious war between Islam and Christianity,’ Nervana Mahmoud said in a recent tweet.
‘President Trump has expended significant political capital working to win the freedom of pastor Andrew Brunson, an American detained in Turkey for nearly two years now on baseless espionage and terrorism charges. Trump is right to do so, but he and his administration also have a moral obligation to come to the aid of three State Department workers facing a similar plight,’ write Henri J. Barkey and former US Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman in an analysis for the Washington Post.
‘Turkey’s strategic geography, NATO membership, and centrality to several US regional objectives make the relationship one worth preserving,’ Amanda Sloat states in her piece for Foreign Affairs.
Sub Saharan Africa
Zimbabwe votes in first election in the post-Mugabe era
Turnout appeared high as Zimbabweans headed to the polls to elect their next president, eight months after longtime President Robert Mugabe was ousted in a military coup. It is the first time since the country’s 1980 independence that Mugabe is not a candidate.
Twenty-three candidates are on today’s presidential ballot, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who came to power following Mugabe’s ouster last year. Alongside Mnangagwa, of the ruling ZANU-PF party, forty-year-old opposition candidate Nelson Chamisa is viewed as a frontrunner. Voters will also cast ballots for parliamentary seats and local offices.
‘ZANU-PF has been desperate to paint the picture of a nation holding credible elections for the first time, but little has actually changed from previous votes marred by widespread irregularities,’ Simukai Tinhu opines for African Arguments.
‘Although some international actors may be satisfied to bless an election if it is merely nonviolent, Washington should stand with the people of Zimbabwe by holding their government to its own standards, clearly articulated in Zimbabwe’s constitution,’ Michelle D. Gavin and Todd Moss state in their two-cents for Foreign Affairs.
‘As if reading from the same script [as Mnangagwa], the main opposition candidate Nelson Chamisa has also promised to open Zimbabwe up to foreign investors, as well as to remedy the economic malaise that spread like a virus during the Mugabe era,’ Gift Mwonzora writes for the Conversation.
EU to facilitate refugees in Turkey
The European Commission has approved a new assistance package worth €400 million, for the education of Syrian refugees in Turkey. This is the first action adopted following the agreement by EU Member States to finance an additional €3 billion for the Facility for Refugees in Turkey.
€400 million will be given in the form of a direct grant to the Turkish Ministry of National Education of Turkey. The funding will provide for the continuation of the current education project for Syrian refugees in Turkey which will expire in October 2018.
US President Donald Trump has admitted his son met a Russian lawyer in June 2016 ‘to get information on an opponent’, but argues it was legal. It is his most direct statement so far on the reason for Donald Trump Jr’s meeting with Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating US intelligence findings that Russians conspired to sway the election in Mr Trump’s favour. Meanwhile, President Trump denies any collusion and has called the ongoing investigations in the US ‘the greatest political witch hunt in history’.
Russia has repeatedly denied claims it interfered in the November 2016 presidential elections, where Mr Trump defeated Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
Pompeo hypes Indo-Pacific strategy in Singapore
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Southeast Asian foreign ministers that Washington remains committed to the Indo-Pacific. At a regional summit of the ASEAN bloc in Singapore, he commended the group’s commitment to the rule of law in the disputed South China Sea and to enforcing sanctions on North Korea.
The comments came a day after Singapore’s foreign minister announced that China and ASEAN nations had reached a ‘milestone’ in talks over a code of conduct in the South China Sea, where member states and Beijing have overlapping claims. The Singapore gathering also includes diplomats from Iran and North Korea, though none are expected to speak with Pompeo, who also met with Malaysian and Singaporean prime ministers on Friday.
‘Countries in Southeast Asia are worried about escalating US-China trade disputes, and about the White House’s tough trade policies rebounding against them, too, as the administration harangues Southeast Asian states with trade deficits with the United States,’ writes Joshua Kurlantzick for the Council on Foreign Relations.
‘Wariness about the ‘Indo-Pacific’ is not limited to China. ASEAN has questioned what it means for its centrality and has adopted a ‘wait and see’ approach. Some senior diplomats expect the idea to fizzle out as it did in the past,’ explains Lynn Kuok for the Brookings East Asian.
‘The stunted economic vision of the [United States’] ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy’ is matched by the irresolution of the Trump administration’s security commitment to its allied and non-allied defence partners in Southeast Asia,’ Sourabh Gupta writes for the South China Morning Post.
Facebook exposes disinformation operation
Social media giant Facebook said it shut down thirty-two fake pages and accounts yesterday that were part of a coordinated inauthentic campaign to spread politically divisive material ahead of US midterm elections in November.
The pages, which included titles such as Aztlan Warriors and Black Elevation, had some 290,000 followers. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the activity was similar to that of campaigns carried out by Russian firm Internet Research Agency before the 2016 US presidential election but that the company had not yet identified who was behind the operation.
‘Similarities [with earlier campaigns] included language patterns that indicate non-native English and consistent mistranslation, as well as an overwhelming focus on polarizing issues at the top of any given news cycle with content that remained emotive rather than fact-based,’ states the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, which is collaborating with Facebook on an election watch program.
‘It’s entirely possible that there are many others out there that the company may not be particularly confident about and for which it is not ready and willing to disclose that they are disinformation operators,’ former Facebook Advisor Dipayan Ghosh said in an interview with National Public Radio.
‘They post whatever they need to create a following, then try to hype up partisan divisions that already exist in the US. The playbook isn’t new, everyone is just getting better at it,’ says Sheera Frenkel of the New York Times in her recent tweet.