The World This Week

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The World This Week
North Korea tests new missiles, and the US remembers 6 January

  GP Team

The World This Week #152, Vol. 4, No. 01

Keerthana Nambiar and D Suba Chandran

North Korea: Pyongyang tests its second hypersonic missile
What happened?
On 6 January, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the state media, reported North Korea testing of the second 'hypersonic missile' on 5 January. The KCNA stated: "The successive successes in the test launches in the hypersonic missile sector have strategic significance in that they hasten a task for modernizing the strategic armed force of the state." 

It read: "The missile made a 120 kilometres lateral movement in the flight distance of the hypersonic gliding warhead from the initial launch azimuth to the target azimuth and precisely hit a set target 700 kilometres away." KCNA confirmed the details of the test such as the ability of operation in the winter season and flight control. In addition, the missile demonstrated its ability to combine "multi-step glide jump flight and strong lateral manoeuvring." 

On 5 January, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said: "Since last year, North Korea has repeatedly launched missiles, which is very regrettable." South Korea's National Security Council convened an emergency meeting addressing the concern on the launch. 

What is the background?
First, North Korea's hypersonic missile tests. In September 2021, North Korea launched its first hypersonic boost-glide vehicle called Hwasong-8. The missile flew 200 kilometres at an altitude of 60 kilometres. The Hwasong-8 has a fuel ampoule technology that permits liquid-fueled missiles to be filled during the production process and can be stored in airtight canisters, making them ready for launch. KCNA refrained from reporting the launch of the missile; thus, the payload and the intensity of the hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) remain unknown. North Korea is visibly interested in developing liquid-propellant missiles which are more energetic than solid-propellant. 

Second, a brief background to the North Korean missiles. North Korea is increasing the nuclear weapons stockpile. It has tested more than a hundred missiles, including ballistic missiles starting from short to medium, intermediate, long, intercontinental, submarine-launched and hypersonic missiles. Hwasong-15, the largest and the most powerful ballistic missile, was launched in 2017. It is a liquid-fueled intercontinental-range ballistic missile (ICBM) with a trajectory of 950 kilometres with a potential range of 13,000 kilometres. 

Third, North Korea's political objectives. North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un justifies nuclear weapons as a shield from the US' hostile policy, solidifying the authoritarian regime. Initially, it was considered to be either a capacity-building technique or a bargaining chip for economic and diplomatic benefits. However, today, North Korea is seeking sufficient nuclear weapons for deterrence from the US. 

Fourth, the global concerns. The US, Japan and South Korea have been wary of North Korea's repeated deployment of weapons due to the geographic proximity. The UK and Germany have consistently urged Pyongyang to resume negotiations and strongly condemned the recent test launches. 

What does this mean?
First, Pyongyang's lack of interest in rejoining denuclearization talks. For a country that is struggling with food shortages and economic crisis, North Korea shows no signs of resurrecting the long-stalled talks with the US. Despite the UNSC resolutions banning nuclear missile tests, Pyongyang continues to develop and test weapons. North Korea wishes to deliver a clear message to the US that the regime will not succumb to the idea of reunification of the Korean peninsula and allow US intervention like in Iraq and Libya. 

Second, the North Korean upper hand. Pyongyang has been pushing for the development of nuclear weapons with ICBMs as its priority. The North here gains supremacy over South Korea, paralyzing Seoul's defense posture and strategic planning. In a broader aperture, South Korea walks on a tightrope and questions the sustainability of South Korea's strategic ambiguity. 

The US: Remembering 6 January
What happened?
On 6 January 2022, observing the first anniversary of the attack on the US Capitol Hill, President Biden said: "To state the obvious, one year ago today, in this sacred place, democracy was attacked - simply attacked. The will of the people was under assault. The Constitution - our Constitution - faced the gravest of threats. Outnumbered and in the face of a brutal attack, the Capitol Police, the DC Metropolitan Police Department, the National Guard and other brave law enforcement officials saved the rule of law. Our democracy held. We the people endured. And we the people prevailed. For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol."

On the same day, the Wall Street Journal, in its editorial took a less alarmist, and a positive note: "One lesson is that on all the available evidence 6 January was not an "insurrection," in any meaningful sense of that word. It was not an attempted coup… America's democratic institutions held up under pressure. They also held in the states in which GOP officials and legislators certified electoral votes despite Mr. Trump's complaints. And they held in the courts as judges rejected claims of election theft that lacked enough evidence. Democrats grudgingly admit these facts but say it was a close run thing. It wasn't. It was a near-unanimous decision against Mr. Trump's electoral claims."

Earlier, on 4 January, Trump cancelled his proposed speech on 6 January. According to a news report, he said: "In light of the total bias and dishonesty of the 6 January Unselect Committee of Democrats, two failed Republicans, and the Fake News Media, I am canceling the January 6th Press Conference."

What is the background?
First, the a deep divide between the two principal political parties, despite what happened on 6 January 2021. Developments in Capitol Hill last year has not brought the Democrats and the Republicans together to defend the American democracy, constitution, the rule of law etc. While the Democrats were trying to fix Trump, the Republicans have mostly rallied behind their leader.

Second, an un-apologizing Trump and the Republicans behind him. Trump has not changed his views; neither has the party. Worse, many in the US believe the party has become Trump's. Those who opposed Trump, or have a different view to the lie that the last Presidential election was stolen, have been sidelined or removed. The party has not taken any measure to own what happened on 6 January, or question the events, statements and lies that led to that day. 

Third, legal actions against those responsible for 6 January 2021. The government has taken a series of actions and pursued a legal course against those were involved in the violence. However, those who were actually responsible for what happened on that day, including Trump are still far. Despite constituting committees and accusing Trump and others of obstructing justice, the last year has not achieved much, except placing a few behind bars. 

Fourth, a polarized American nation. Trump and Trumpism has polarised the American nation and the liberal values that the US takes pride of. Questions over white supremacy, racial injustice and the divide within the American Supreme Court during 2021 should highlight the Trump legacy and its fallouts.

What does it mean?
First, there is less likely to be "justice" to what had happened on 6 January 2021. Though the democrats would want to fix Trump and his supporters for what had happened that day, it would remain a tough task to do it legally. Biden instead has to look at addressing the larger fallouts and implications of 6 January to the American democracy instead of trying to fix Trump. The second one, is less likely to result in the first. His speech on 6 January 2022 is an attempt to fix Trump, than a road map to address the issues at hand. Equally important are questions over racial inequality, women's rights, economic recovery, and pandemic fallouts. The decline in American democracy has global implications.

Also, in the news...
By Avishka Ashok and Ashwin Dhanabalan 

East and Southeast Asia This Week
Japan: Sign the Reciprocal Access Agreement with Australia
On 6 January, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met at a virtual summit and concurred to sign the Reciprocal Access Agreement. The two countries will strengthen their defence and security cooperation through the agreement. Prime Minister Kishida was scheduled to visit the US and Australia but cancelled the trips after a sudden surge in coronavirus cases. The agreements signed with Australia further enhance the cooperation between the countries to counter the influence of China in the region. 

Japan: Foreign and Defence Ministers meet with the US on the Indo-Pacific
On 7 January, the Foreign Ministers and Defence Ministers of Japan and the US issued a joint statement and voiced their concerns regarding China's influence in the Indo-Pacific region. Both countries pledged to cooperate and fight against China in the future. The statement reiterated their commitment to work together and respond to any destabilizing activities undertaken by China. The Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wnbin responded: "We deplore and firmly oppose the gross interference in China's internal affairs by the US, Japan and Australia and the fabrication of false information to smear China and undermine the solidarity and mutual trust of countries in the region."

Myanmar: Cambodian Prime Minister visits General Hlaing
On 7 January, Al Jazeera reported that the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had arrived in Myanmar to meet with General Min Aung Hlaing. The meeting marks the first visit by a foreign leader after the coup of February 2021. The meeting has raised international concerns as Hun Sen has eliminated all opposition in Cambodia and is the current chair of ASEAN. Hun Sen has put ASEAN's Five-Point Consensus for peace in Myanmar on the table for discussion through the visit. It calls for an immediate end to violence within the country, dialogue between the parties and a mediation facilitated by an envoy of ASEAN's chair.

Vietnam: Indian Defence Minister to discuss the sale of Brahmos 
On 2 January, the Economic Times reported that Defence Minister Rajnath Singh would be visiting Vietnam in the coming week to celebrate the golden jubilee of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The top leaders of the two countries will discuss major military deals, including the sale of the Brahmos missile jointly produced by India and Russia. The meeting between Singh and the Vietnamese delegation will be discussing defence exports, joint collaboration, training and maintenance of defence equipment. 

The Philippines: Duterte refuses to apologize for deaths caused by drug wars
On 4 January, President Duterte remarked that he would never apologize for the deaths of dealers and users caused by his initiative of war on drugs. Duterte said: "I will never, never apologize for the deaths. Kill me, jail me, I will never apologize." Government statistics show that close to 6,200 people have died in the operations related to the war on drugs.

South Asia This Week
The Maldives: Chinese Foreign Minister celebrates 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations
On 7 January, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited the Maldives to celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Wang Yi signed several documents of cooperation in Male and observed that China had been a crucial part of improving the medical infrastructure in the Maldives by supplying vaccines and other essential medical supplies during the pandemic. Wang Yi also paid a courtesy call on President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and unveiled the official logo for the 50th anniversary with the Foreign Minister Shahid. 

Sri Lanka: Chinese Foreign Minister visits and celebrates 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations
On 8 January, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Sri Lanka to celebrate the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The visit also comes when Sri Lanka is looking for funds to restore its foreign exchange reserves and repay its debt while the import bills escalate. Wang Yi is scheduled to meet with the top officials in Sri Lanka on 9 January and visit the Colombo Port City where the China Communication Construction Corporation is building the port. 

India: China renames 15 territories in Arunachal Pradesh
On 6 January, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi referred to China's action of renaming numerous locations in the Indian territory of Arunachal Pradesh and called it a "ridiculous exercise." He said: "Calling Tuting and "DouDeng" or River Siyom as "XiYueMu" or even Kibithu as "Daba" does not alter the fact that Arunachal Pradesh has always been and will always remain an inalienable part of India." The Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian also reacted to the statement by Bagchi and said: "For standardized management of the area, the competent authorities in China in accordance with relevant regulations have published the names for the relevant area. These are matters that are within China's sovereignty."

Pakistan: An action plan for strategic dialogue with Gulf countries finalized 
On 5 January, Pakistan and the Gulf Cooperation Council agreed on the Joint Action Plan for STrategic Dialogue 2022-2026. The plan provides an institutional approach to deepen the cooperation in political, security, trade and investment, agriculture and food security, transport, energy, environment, health, culture and education. The Foreign Minister Qureshi observed that the plan would provide increased cooperation between Pakistan and the Gulf countries. Pakistani Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin also commented on the plan and said: "The Pakistan government was committed to introducing reforms in various sectors to address the outstanding structural issues and to attain sustainable and inclusive growth."

Afghanistan: Pakistani Foreign Minister pledges to resolve Durand Line issue via diplomatic channel
On 4 January, the Taliban government in Afghanistan announced that the Durand Line issues would be handled through the diplomatic channel. On 3 January, the Pakistani Foreign Minister had also confirmed a similar stance on the issue and said: "Afghanistan is our brotherly and friendly country. Some quarters want to unnecessarily raise this issue, which is not in Pakistan's interest." The Taliban deputy spokesperson also commented on the issue and said: "We don't want our relations to be strained with neighbouring countries over such small issues. We will work together to prevent such incidents in the future."

Central Asia, Middle East, and Africa This Week
Kazakhstan: Protests over increased oil prices  
Kazakhstan saw a period of peace since it gained independence in 1991, but the recent protests have destabilized the country. On 5 January, protests in Kazakhstan were incited by the increase of oil prices in an oil-rich country. This brought in the Russian military to intervene, which further led to the deaths and injuries of demonstrators. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev authorized the security forces to deal with protestors by firing without warning. His orders resonate with his style of handling protests that have also exacerbated the demonstrators' demands. The protestors have been discontent with the authoritarian regime of Tokayev and the corruption that has plagued the country. 

Mali: New plan for transition in the country rejected
On 6 January, The mediator of West Africa's regional bloc ECOWAS informed Malis' junta leader of a summit to be held on 9 January. The summit would address Mali's transition from military rule to civilian rule. Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan will be heading the delegation of ECOWAS mediators to Mali. Mali's President Assimi Goita said the talks addressed the "evolution of the political situation." But, a coalition of 10 parties in Mali has rejected the transition plans. The parties released a joint statement saying the charter "has not been discussed in Mali and cannot in any way be the deep desire of the Malian people." And further added that the coalition "rejects this unilateral and unreasonable timetable."

Sudan: Massive protest leads to the resignation of PM Hamdok
On 3 January, Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok announced his resignation after massive protests erupted in Khartoum. Hamdok mentioned how the country was undergoing instability and said: "a dangerous turning point that threatens its whole survival." His resignation, as reported by BBC, "…is another blow to Sudan's fragile attempts at a transition to democratic rule after a popular uprising led to the overthrow of Sudan's long-term authoritarian President Omar al-Bashir in 2019". Protestors marched chanting "power to the people," but the military clamped down on them with force, leaving two people dead. 

Africa: Ethiopia, Mali, and Guinea removed from the AGOA trade program
On 8 January, the US removed Ethiopia, Mali, and Guinea from a duty-free trade program due to their alleged involvement in human rights violations and coups. The US trade representative said: "due to actions taken by each of their governments in violation of the AGOA Statute." The US expressed its concerns about the issues, saying: "by the gross violations of internationally recognized human rights being perpetrated by the government of Ethiopia and other parties amid the widening conflict in northern Ethiopia." The AGOA granted duty-free US access if they met specific requirements under the AGOA norms.

Iran: Foreign minister says JCPOA can be agreed if all sanctions are lifted 
On 6 January, Iran's foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian stated that an agreement with the West could be reached if all the sanctions against the country were lifted. He said: "Lifting sanctions means lifting all forms of sanctions stipulated in the nuclear agreement, and the sanctions that Trump reimposed contradict the terms of the agreement." He additionally said: "We demand guarantees that include not imposing any new sanctions, and not reimposing sanctions after lifting them under any pretext."

Iran: Trump must face justice for the killing of Soleimani
On 3 January, Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi said that the former US President Donald Trump should face justice for his role in the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani. Raisi urged the formation of a 'fair court' that would take action against Trump or else he said: "don't doubt, and I tell this to all American statesmen, that the hand of revenge will come out of the ummah's [nation's] sleeve." Iran also called upon the UN General Assembly and the Security Council to take action against the US and Israel for their involvement in the killing of Iran's top General.

Europe and the Americas This Week
France: Google and Facebook fined in France for over tracking cookies
On 6 January, France's data privacy watchdog, the Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés fined Google and Facebook. This is because they made it difficult for users to refuse cookies that tracked their activity. Both the giants were fined a combined sum of EUR 210 million. CNIL's head of data protection and sanctions said: "Rejecting cookies should be as easy as accepting them." France had given three months to companies to comply with the country's orders and had warned them to face a penalty of EUR 100,000 for every day delayed.

Australia: Canberra cancelled Djokovic's visa for vaccine exemption
On 6 January, the world's number one Tennis player Novak Djokovic had his visa revoked when he arrived in Melbourne to play in the Australian Open. Tournament organizers said he had been granted a medical exemption by medical panels of the organizing body of Tennis Australia. However, the Australian border force said: "Non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa on entry or who have had their visa canceled will be detained and removed from Australia." The decision received a backlash from Serbia as president Aleksandar Vucic said Djokovic was a victim of "harassment." 

Germany: US and Germany warned Russia over the Ukraine crisis
On 5 January, US secretary of state Antony Blinken and German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock reminded Russia of its consequences if it invaded Ukraine. Blinken said: "Strong trans-Atlantic solidarity is the most effective response and most effective tool that we have in countering Russian aggression." Baerbock, regarding the crisis, mentioned how Europe and the US would impose "severe consequences" if Russia invaded Ukraine and further said: "There is no alternative to a political solution. This has to be clear to the Russian government." The two countries also discussed the issues of the Nord Stream two pipeline. 

Bosnia: The US treasury sanctioned Bosnian leader over corruption 
On 5 January, the US Treasury announced sanctions on Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik. Dodik was implicated in gaining wealth through bribes and grants through a type of patronage system. The treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence Brian Nelson said: "Milorad Dodik's destabilizing corrupt activities and attempts to dismantle the Dayton Peace Accords, motivated by his own self-interest, threaten the stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the entire region." Dodik's assets in the US will be frozen under the sanctions, and US entities will be barred from dealing with him or entity associated with him. 

Lithuania: Taiwan to invest EUR 176 million
On 5 January, Taiwan announced that it would be creating a EUR 176 million fund to invest in Lithuania. This announcement came after Lithuania permitted Taiwan to open a representative office in the country, which received backlash from China. Taiwan's investments are a way of balancing the restrictions and backlash that Lithuania is facing from China. Concerning the investment, the funds would focus on industries that would help promote bilateral relations between both countries. The head of Taiwan's mission to Lithuania, Eric Hung, said: "I can imagine the first top priorities will be semiconductor, laser and biotechnology."   

Turkey: The country faces high inflation with Erdogan's policies
On 4 January, Turkey's inflation rate reached a record high of 36 per cent. The last time Turkey registered an inflation rate similar to this was in October 2002. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was attributed for steering out the country from the 2002 financial crisis and giving the country two decades of prosperity. However, now, due to his traditional economic policies, the country saw rapid inflation. He said: "We're determined to bring down inflation to the single digits as soon as possible." However, Erdogan's stance on interest rates and his methods of handling the current economic crisis has been questioned as he disdained the idea of increasing interest rates, calling it "the mother and father of all evil." 

P5 countries pledge to prevent nuclear war
On 3 January, China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US pledged to prevent nuclear war and said: "We believe strongly that the further spread of such weapons must be prevented." They also mentioned that a nuclear war "cannot be won and must never be fought." The statements resonated with Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev's ideas when a nuclear arms race was at its zenith. The five countries also affirmed that "nuclear weapons — for as long as they continue to exist — should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war."

France: Paris takes over the EU presidency
On 1 January, France took over the presidency of the European Union. French President Emmanuel Macron said: "the year 2022 must be a turning point for Europe." He further stated: "This agenda for a sovereign Europe will be accelerated with the French Presidency. Europe must rise to the major economic, educational, migration and military challenges." France hopes to focus on a minimum wage implemented in the EU, a carbon tax, and more regulations for big tech companies in the region. France will also be pushing for "Strategic autonomy" in the area. 

Ukraine: Biden and Zelenskyy's hold a telephonic conversation
On 1 January, US President Joe Biden spoke on a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and reiterated support for Ukraine with tensions still looming with Russia. The White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: "President Biden made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further decides to invade Ukraine." Zelenskyy took to Twitter to tweet about the conversation, saying: "The first international talk of the year with @POTUS proves the special nature of our relations."

Canada: Reparations to First Nations and individuals that suffered systemic discrimination
On 2 January, Canada agreed to pay dollar 40 billion as compensation to families that suffered structural discrimination. About 200,000 individuals and families would be receiving the compensation apart from the other half, which would be used to reform child welfare for First Nations. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and a Federal court found a discriminatory system in a program that ran from the 1880s until 1996 where First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children were forcefully removed and placed in residential schools where they were exposed to physical, sexual, and psychological violence. 

Nicaragua: China reopens embassy 
On 2 January, China reopened its embassy in Nicaragua after the country severed its ties with Taiwan. China shut down its embassy in the country in the 1990s and was recently opened almost three decades later as both the countries resumed their diplomatic ties. Chinese Foreign Ministry representative Yu Bo and Nicaraguan foreign minister Denis Moncada participated in a ceremony marking the renewal of relations. Moncada thanked China for the one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and said the countries had entered into a newer phase of diplomacy. 

Haiti: Assassination attempt on Prime Minister
On 4 January, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry said: "An attempt has been made against me personally. My life has been put in the crosshairs." Haiti was experiencing clashes between the police and armed groups on 1 January in Gonaives, a historical city where Haiti signed its declaration of independence. In addition, Henry's car had a bullet hole on his windshield which added to the speculation that it was an assassination attempt. 

About the Authors
Keerthana Nambiar is a Postgraduate scholar at the University of Mysore. D Suba Chandran is Dean and Professor in the School of Conflict and Security Studies at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Avishka Ashok and Ashwin Dhanabalan are Research Associates at NIAS.

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