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CWA # 86, 11 February 2019

The World this Week
US, South Korea and Thailand

  GP Team

Harini Madhusudan, Abhishrut Singh & Aparupa Bhattacherjee

 

US South Korea Military Deal

 

There has been a stand-off between the officials of both the US and South Korea, regarding the negotiations of the five-year funding agreement regarding the costs of basing U.S. troops in South Korea. US negotiators have been seeking 50 per cent increase in the annual payment. This is as part of Trump’s statement that the US allies are taking advantage of the American Military Protection for decades. South Korea says that they already pay a lot to the US troops as compared with the other American allies, second to Japan. South Korea called for negotiation in order to adjust annual payments to account for inflation in the country.

On 10 February 2019, the US and South Korea struck a deal hurriedly on the costs of the US military presence. This can be directly linked to the upcoming summit between Trump and Kim Jong-Un. US President Trump has stated that the second summit between him and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, will be in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. Under the agreement, South Korea has agreed to increase the amount paid for US military presence by 8.2 percent, as compared to the previous five-year deal. This would be about $890 million a year. However, the five year deal has been reduced to be for a year. One can see a new round of negotiations on this in a couple of months.

Trump administration seems to be making an effort in striking such deals with other allies whose countries host the US military. But the remarkable resistance shown by  South Korea may force them to rethink on this strategy. Many observers are calling this a shift from “rules based international order, to a deals based international order.”

 

Inside the US

 

State of the Union address

President Mr Trump introduced his 10-year strategy, which would target the communities with the most HIV infections and work to reduce transmissions by 2030, initiative will be led by top health officials, including HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CDC Director Robert Redfield. While celebrating his drug pricing strategy he claimed that 2018 drug prices “experienced their single largest decline in 46 years. He added that government should require drugmakers, insurers and hospital to disclose “real prices” but didn’t expand on the idea or which of his proposals it referenced.

President Mr Trump urged Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children. He also unveils $500 million childhood cancer plan.

Wall Breakthrough?

The message which President Mr Trump wanted to convey in his State of the Union speech was bipartisanship and working across the aisle. But, the only bipartisanship we can see is that members of both parties are increasingly opposed to Trump on issues he’s putting front and centre. Republicans have begun speaking out against his foreign policy, have snubbed him on his wall and are prepared to block him if he tries to build a border barrier on his own. The most recent example of bipartisanship was when the president ended the shutdown, and in that case, he adopted the Democrats’ position. Facing a Republican unwilling to back another government shutdown or a national emergency declaration to build his border wall, President Donald Trump is in an unfamiliar position.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is confident about one thing: there won’t be another government shutdown. The California Democrat also pledged to back whatever deal emerges from the talks, even as she remains insistent on no money for Trump’s wall.

 

Thailand: A Political Twist

 

Thailand’s Princess Ubolratana Mahidol's nomination for the Prime Ministership by the opposition party has sent a shock wave across the country. Thailand is preparing for its upcoming general election on 24 March 2019 and the current Prime Minister and Junta leader, Prayuth Chan-ocha, is re-contesting this year. Prayuth Chan-ocha is retired Thai Army General, who came to power with the coup d’état in 2014. Hence it is perceived to be his willingness to retain power. But, with the nomination of the princess by the opposition Thai Raksa Chart Party, the dynamics changed.

Although Thailand is a constitutional monarchy since 1932, the monarchy has till date retained its charisma and respect. The nomination of the princess had two impacts. Firstly, it shocked the people as it is the first time that someone from the Royal family was nominated to contest especially from the political party which is close to Thaksin Shinawatra. He has been the former Prime Minister of Thailand but was ousted by Army in 2006. Shinawatra who still retains his clout in the rural areas and was previously considered a threat to the Monarchy. Secondly, her nomination will also ensure the political loss of Chan-ocha, given the fact that she is from the royal family, rarely anybody will vote against her. Additionally, Princess Ubolratana is herself famous for her philanthropy and public image of being educated and caring about the Thais.  Thirdly, this would have directly pitched the Royal against the military, which is both pivotal institutions of Thailand.

All of these enthusiasms were nabbed in the bud when the current King Maha Vajiralongkorn, publicly denounced the nomination of Princess claiming it to be against the spirit of the Constitution for Royalties to be involved in politics. Although, Princess Ubolratana have relinquished her Royal title in the 1970s to be married to a commoner, nevertheless, the King argued that she is still part of the Royal family and the member of the Chakri dynasty. This has been respectfully accepted by both the opposition party and the Princess. Now one has to wait eagerly to see who will be the next nomination by the Thai Raksa Chart Party and whether the new nominee will be strong enough to give a challenge to both the Prayuth Chan-ocha and his party.

The March election is crucial to the country as it may or may not bring an end to the Junta regime. The news about the Princess nomination has acted as a catalyst for the international media focus on this event. The result will set a new change in Thai politics which was in deadlock since 2014.

 

Harini Madhusudan is a Research Associate, Abhishrut Singh is a Research Intern & Aparupa Bhattacherjee is a PhD Scholar at the ISSSP, NIAS

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