Friday, July 21

Friday, July 21

DEMILITARISED DIPLOMACY South Korea proposes talks with the North In the face of escalating tensions, South Korean President Moon Jae-in

DEMILITARISED DIPLOMACY

South Korea proposes talks with the North

Photo: DPA

Photo: DPA

In the face of escalating tensions, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has suggested beginning military talks with North Korea at the demilitarised zone as early as today.

Pyongyang has not responded to Moon’s invitation. Last year, sanctions were levied against the North in reply to the state’s fourth nuclear test. Kim Jong-un responded by proposing similar talks to ease tensions between the two peninsular states. Then-South Korean President Park Geun-hye rejected the proposal as insincere, as no reference to denuclearisation was made. By offering such discourse, it is plausible that Kim was trying to sow division in both the international community’s and the South Korean public’s commitment to sanctions.

Given his nascent presidency, Moon could be looking to achieve an early victory by demonstrating the success of his adopted “Sunshine Policy.” Such a triumph could come in the form of a resumption of the family reunion program, halted since 2015, deterrence against future missile tests, or a general easing of tensions by quelling the fusillade of vitriolic rhetoric that has come out of the DPRK as of late.

TRIAL THAIS UP

Yingluck Shinawatra faces sentence in corruption case

Yingluck

Photo: Reuters

Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand’s last civilian Prime Minister, will be sentenced today for her criminal negligence and abuse of power in a corrupt rice subsidy scheme, of which she was convicted following her military ouster in 2014. Ms Yingluck’s conviction could mark the end of her political career, preventing a return to a decade of Shinawatra rule and endangering the future of their Puea Thai Party.

The Puea Thai Party draws support from Thailand’s “red shirt” alliance—northern farmers and rural workers whose support Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin, rode to power in 2001. The red shirts have faced violent street protests and two coups in the past decade by the opposing royalist, military-backed “yellow shirt” alliance.

Yingluck faces 10 years in prison, and her likely conviction may prompt further protests from supporters who see her as a political martyr. The market for Thai rice has dropped by over a million metric tonnes since Yingluck’s interventions, facing stiff competition from Vietnam and India, thus creating a basis for coming social unrest.

PRESIDENTIAL PARLEY

Mercosur’s presidents convene in Argentina

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

The presidents of Mercosur, the largest trade bloc in Latin America, will meet in Mendoza, Argentina today.

Topping the agenda will be a proposed free trade agreement with the EU. Because Mercosur requires unanimity, ratifying a free trade agreement with the EU had never been possible, as leftist regimes long dominated the bloc. With Venezuela suspended and the socialist “pink tide” ebbing in the customs union’s remaining states, a transcontinental free trade agreement seems more likely now than ever.

Opponents argue that it could jeopardise the success of domestic businesses. Conversely, proponents highlight that it will give the bloc’s constituents access to higher quality goods at lower prices and benefit exporting businesses by eliminating costly tariffs.

Mercosur’s executives are also likely to discuss greater integration with Latin America’s other major trade union, the Pacific Alliance. With Argentina facing high inflation and unemployment as Brazil is poised to enter its third year of economic contraction, greater cooperation between the two trading blocs could resuscitate South America’s two largest economies.

 

HAPPENING ELSEWHERE…

The Russian and Chinese navies will begin a week-long joint exercise in the Baltic Sea. The drills mark the first time China’s People’s Liberation Army has operated in the Baltic, highlighting the country’s rise as a naval power able to project force globally.

Representatives from the UN Security Council’s five permanent members will meet with their Iranian counterparts in Vienna to review the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal. The meeting comes days after the US confirmed that Tehran was complying with the deal but in breach of “the spirit” of the accords by continuing to develop ballistic missiles (which fall outside the remit of the agreement). The Trump administration also announced a raft of new sanctions on individuals who are connected to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.