23 February 2019   Leave a comment

Eight months after their summit meeting in Singapore, North Korean leader Kim and US President Trump are scheduled to meet again next week in Vietnam. It is not clear what to expect from this second meeting. Both sides achieved certain goals from the first meeting: North Korea got a promise from the US not to hold military exercises with South Korea and leader Kim got the symbolic prestige of being acknowledged as a nuclear power; the US got a suspension of testing from North Korea, the return of military remains from the Korean War, and three hostages were returned to the US. But the ultimate goal remains denuclearization for the US and reunification of the Korean peninsula for North Korea. Neither of those two goals seems achievable next week. Many analysts believe that President Trump is interested in receiving a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts and it is perhaps conceivable that a final peace treaty for the Korean War could be signed, although that would require the signatures of South Korea and China as well. But the armistice has held between North and South Korea since 1953 and it is not clear what a final peace treaty would signify. And it seems likely that a peace treaty would also imply that the US would pull its troops out of South Korea, a move that would require more than a simple North Korean signature on a piece of paper.

There have been deaths reported along the Venezuela-Colombia border as protesters clashed with the Venezuela national guard preventing humanitarian aid from entering the country. There are also reports of some of the soldiers abandoning their posts and joining the protests. The clashes are primarily symbolic as the amount of aid available at the border is far too small to have any effect on the desperate situation in Venezuela. The aid is a wedge designed to weaken President Maduro’s control over the military. The tactic may in fact lead to defections in the military, but the risks associated with the gamble are huge: the military officers loyal to Maduro have far too much invested in Maduro to overthrow him. The tactic is more likely to fragment the military, leading to a civil war within the military. And China and Russia have also cast their lot with Maduro, meaning that Maduro has every reason to believe that he can hold on. The US is playing a very dangerous game: creating a power vacuum in Venezuela is not going to stabilize the situation for the better.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been on a tour of Asian countries and has signed very large economic agreements with Pakistan, India, and China (Pakistan gifted Salman a gold-plated assault rifle). The trip is designed to improve the image of Saudi Arabia in the world after the death of Jamal Khashoggi. Salman’s last visit to China was especially interesting as the two countries signed a $10 billion deal for a refining and petrochemical complex in China. Prince Salman was apparently willing to overlook the detention of over 2 million Uighur Muslims in the northwestern province of China, Xinjiang, who China suspects are not loyal to the central government in Beijing. There is no better proof for the realist adage that interests, not values, rule in world politics.

The Centrality of Xinjiang to China’s Belt and Road Initative

Posted February 23, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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