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Korea del Nord, sulle sanzioni guerra fredda USA-Cina

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Martedì 16 gennaio si è tenuto a Vancouver un Vertice tra venti Nazioni per discutere l’attivazione delle misure sanzionatorie nei confronti della Nord Corea. Canada e Stati Uniti hanno coordinato l’incontro affermando il loro impegno nell’assicurare che le sanzioni già approvate dalle Nazioni Unite vengano rispettate e che ad esse si aggiungano ulteriori sanzioni unilaterali e azioni diplomatiche da parte degli Stati al fine di costringere Pyongyang ad abbandonare i programmi missilistici e nucleari. Ciò che è sorprendente è stata l’esclusione di Russia e Cina al tavolo delle discussioni. La Cina ha infatti reagito denunciando i Vancouver Talks di farsi portatori di una mentalità da guerra fredda. Già da tempo il Presidente cinese Xi Jinping aveva collaborato con gli States affinché fosse aperto il dialogo con la Nord Corea e fossero previste azioni di denuclearizzazione, attraverso la riduzione delle esportazioni di greggio, anche a costo di far lievitare il costo della benzina in madrepatria. Pertanto la decisione di escludere la Cina e la Russia, peraltro due dei restanti partner commerciali della Nord Corea, è stata interpretata come il segno che gli Stati Uniti caldeggino ancora la possibilità di un attacco militare nella zona.

Durante l’incontro a Vancouver, il Segretario di Stato americano Rex Tillerson ha infatti avvertito Pyongyang di innescare una risposta militare se non accetta le negoziazioni. Questo metodo, secondo Lu Kang, portavoce del Ministro degli esteri cinese, potrebbe dividere la comunità internazionale e minare le occasioni di una soluzione pacifica nella penisola. “Solo attraverso il dialogo” continua il portavoce, “nonché affrontando le preoccupazioni di tutti i coinvolti, è possibile trovare la strada per una soluzione effettiva e pacifica”.

Secondo Wang Sheng, un ricercatore del Centro di “Co-Innovation for Korean Penincula”, il tempismo di questo incontro appare peraltro inappropriato, dal momento che la situazione nella penisola coreana era di recente stata contraddistinta da un grande avvicinamento tra le due Coree, ovvero dalla riapertura del canale intercoreano di comunicazione diretta. Ovviamente questo riavvicinamento, molto gradito a Cina e Russia, non può essere visto con grande ottimismo da Trump. Alla notizia dell’incontro tra i due leader coreani Trump aveva specificato di esserne in qualche modo soddisfatto, dando il merito di questo «passo» alle sanzioni e alle pressioni esercitate su Kim. Tuttavia, appare evidente che la penisola coreana riappacificata permetterebbe all’Asia di tornare a concentrarsi sul futuro delle relazioni commerciali ed economiche e ridurrebbe il peso americano in termini di vendita di armi e di «garante» della sicurezza nella regione. Seul aveva inoltre confermato la necessità di interrompere le esercitazioni congiunte con gli Stati Uniti, ribadendo la volontà di trattare con Kim, anche a condizione di “dire dei no” – come aveva affermato il Presidente Moon in campagna elettorale – all’alleato americano.

India and China for a news Leadership on the Climate?

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The world is changing rapidly. Until not long ago, the United States of Barack Obama, in the role of the virtuoses, pressed on India and China, the “big polluters”, to renew their environmental policies and join the ranks of countries engaged in combating climate change. The Paris COP 21 agreement, which was signed in 2015 by all the major players in the game, had, despite the many downward compromises, represented a favorable outcome for environmental issues and a success of the American democratic administration.

Less than two years later, Trump is ready to get out of the agreement, and India and China are willing to lead the fight against pollution, without saving sharp criticism to the new presidency’ choices.

None of the two countries, however, seems to be ready to assume a real leadership in the fight against global warming and fill the void that will inevitably be left by USA discharge.

The two Asian governments are gradually taking on more strong positions, on the public level as well, against fossil fuels, as their respective populations are going to directly suffer, more and more, from the adverse effects of climate change and poisoning of natural resources. Beyond reassuring positions, China and India are, at least for now, unable to offset the strong weakening of the economic incentive system the US offered to developing countries in exchange for a greater control over their levels of pollution.

The change of route in Asia is, however, evident and should not be underestimated. For decades, the governments of India and China had looked with suspicion and annoyance at the appeals of the first world countries for a reduction in polluting emissions. The countries which have based their development on wild industrialization without posing too much doubts about the climatic consequences, asked the poorer countries to limit their growth capabilities to preserve the health of the planet. What pulp came from the sermon?

Today, however, both Indian President Modi and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping seem to have adopted a different vision of the world. Modi called a “morally criminal act” to not stick to the commitments assumed on the climate front. Jinping addressed all signatories to the COP 21, recalling that it represents “a responsibility we must assume for future generations”.

Trump’s choice could have dramatic consequences for that same future. In addition to the reduction in economic incentives and technological equipment supplies (the US alone would have to contribute for about 20% of the total), American withdrawal could entice other countries to do the same. The Paris agreement, moreover, had been considered by many to be a downward result, unable to effectively contain global warming in the coming years. There would be much more substantial emissions cutbacks in order to reverse the route, but the American turnaround may also weaken the current deal, encouraging more hesitant states to loosen the ties of their engagement.

The United States is also the second most polluting country in the world, and with the Paris agreement they pledged to reduce 26 to 28% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Without their contribution, experts are asking, will it be possible to meet the objective of limiting the rise in temperature, compared to the pre-industrial era, below the two degrees, as established by the Paris Agreement?

It’s hard to say, but things are neverthless moving. If India is committed to meeting its objectives, despite the fact that 240 million people in the sub-continent still have no access to electricity, China seems to have rapidly traveled to its commitments and started a financing project on the renewable energies ($ 360 million by 2020) that makes the Asian giant the new industry leader, globally.

New environmental policies, according to scholars, have already begun to have some tangible consequences in the two countries. China has slowed down its consumption of carbon and India is about to reduce its construction projects for new coal-fired power plants. New Deli then accelerated investments in wind and solar energy, moving to the target set for 2022: to bring its capacity from renewable sources to 175 gigawatts.

The words of Indian Energy Minister Piyush Goya sound clear and strong: “We are not addressing climate change because somebody told us to do it, it is an article of faith for this government .”

The jibe for the most industrialized countries is also a paradigm shift: “Sadly the developed world does not show the same commitment to fulfill their promises, which could help speed up the clean energy revolution .”

Will the Asian powers therefore be able to fill in the American shortages and load this revolution on their shoulders? The commitment is evident but the economic problem remains. American leadership on the environmental front, in the Obama era, was expressed through a $ 3 billion loan in favor of the poorest countries to support them in the development of alternative energies. This fund has been reduced by two-thirds by Trump and neither Beijing nor New Delhi intend to put all this money on the table. Rather, the two giants seem willing to play a coordinating and addressing role, strengthening the sharing of technology-based knowledge among the nations involved.

Using the words of Varad Pande, an ex-consultant at the Indian Ministry of Energy, the one that is being built todaywill be a different flavor of leadership“.

Intense and spicy, hopefully, like curry.

IF PYONGYANG PUTS BEIJING NEAR WASHINGTON

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1280px-The_statues_of_Kim_Il_Sung_and_Kim_Jong_Il_on_Mansu_Hill_in_Pyongyang_(april_2012)

The tone escalation in Northeast Asia is alarming the chancelleries of the region and beyond. The fragile equilibrium on which the peace lies in the Korean peninsula is put to the test on both sides. Trump threatened to send a naval “armada”, putting Pyongyang under pressure during the celebrations for the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-Sung, founder of the country. Kim Jong-Un, on the opposite side, renewed its threats to the United States and its South Korean and Japanese allies, claiming to be ready to use all of its offensive potential in the event of a conflict. The North Korean nuclear dossier, therefore, is again on the top of the agenda, raising the alarm level of the international community.

The nuclear project is for Pyongyang absolutely strategic in terms of detriment of external threats and for this purpose it funds the program with $ 700 million annually, to advance on the technological ground and equip medium- and long-range ballistic vectors  on which, one day, install atomic warheads. The six nuclear tests so far conducted and the progressive technical improvements have allowed the regime to strengthen its position in the chain of regional relations and in the confrontation with the great American enemy, with whom, it should be remembered, a peace treaty was never signed after the end of the Korean War in 1951.

It is not possible to verify Pyongyang’s proclamations and no one knows for sure when Kim will be able to rely on the hydrogen bomb or on a ballistic missile capable of reaching the American West Coast. This uncertainty, however, plays in favor of the regime, which shows the muscles without the enemy being able to understand with certainty whether they are made of flesh or fake.

Nuclear rhetoric is an important instrument of control and affirmation also on the domestic front, as it allows Kim to consolidate its authority both in the eyes of the population and the bureaucratic-military establishment that plays a central role in the country. When he succeeded his father in 2011, Kim was almost unknown at home. Therefore, he immediately had to  exacerbate his rhetoric to build the image of an authoritative and determined leader, relying on the powerful propaganda machine and the systematic cleanup of internal opponents. Paradigmatic example was the physical elimination of Jang Song-taek, uncle of the young leader who had climbed the military hierarchies during the reign of Kim Jong-il and who, in the first months after the succession, played the role of de facto regent of the Regime.

Jang had also become the principal referent of Beijing, the main, if not unique, North Korean ally. And, on the Chinese model, Jang wanted to bring Pyongyang on the road to economic reforms and greater openness . Jang’s specific weight in the power system and his plan to transform the country, moving away from the dynastic and personalistic model in favor of a more collegial conception inspired by the Beijing example, have been probably the origin of its end. Progressively marginalized by the new leader after 2011, he was arrested in 2013 and killed along with other members of his circle.

This demonstration of strength, while serving as an example to other possible internal opponents, marked the beginning of a new phase of isolation of  the country from the rest of the international community. Subsequent nuclear tests and the aggressive rhetoric of Kim have provoked a strong exasperation towards the Pyongyang regime, even in the Chinese ally, traditionally available for patience. After Jang’s execution, Beijing lost its reference man and no longer found trusted interlocutors north of the 38th parallel, losing part of his role as protector and regime controller.

If for a long time North Korea has been a pressure instrument on the international community and a buffered state between Beijing and the Asian allies of the United States, it is now likely to be a risk factor for Chinese interests in the region. North Korean intimidations has had the effect of releasing the arming race in neighboring countries, thus altering the traditional balance in the Pacific and putting Beijing in a situation of unprecedented difficulty. Pyongyang’s defense may therefore be counterproductive for China, which could ultimately opt for pragmatic convergence with the United States, South Korea and Japan.

In 2016, for the first time, China joined the sanctions system against the North Korean government, marking a major breakthrough. Beijing is in fact the first trading partner for Pyongyang and hosts a large number of bank accounts, companies and firms that manage the regime’s legal and illegal activities. In 2017 coal imports from North Korea will drop by about 50%, with estimated economic damage of about $ 700 million, equal to the entire budget for the nuclear research program.

This change of route does not, however, result in a Chinese flattening on American positions. Beijing did not appreciate at all the explicit threats put forth by Trump against North Korea and, at the March bilateral summit in Florida, Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated the need to find a diplomatic solution and avoid a dangerous escalation in the region. Beijing could not afford to remain a passive spectator in the face of any US military action that would have a direct impact on its national security.

The economic and commercial leverage could allow China to re-enforce its influence on the North Korean military and bureaucratic elites, who base their prosperity on the ability to do business with the powerful neighbor. However, it will be necessary to locate new contact persons in Pyongyang so that it can return to influence the regime’s policy and best manage, in the event of a fall of current leadership, the transition phase. A recaptured influence would also allow China to get a new exchange currency in the relationship with Trump administration, in a delicate historical stage for the relations between the two global giants.

The need to limit the unpredictability of Kim Jong-Un’s regime could be the common ground on which to redefine the boundaries of the relationship between China and the United States. A more assertive role of Beijing towards the regime could therefore be the result of an agreement between the two sides of the Pacific, with a possible marginalization of the role played by Japan and South Korea in determining a new strategy.

Tokyo and Seoul would be on the front line in a possible armed conflict with Pyongyang. If, however, Japan appears ready to support the Trump administration’s muscular approach, Seoul continues to push for the search of peaceful and diplomatic solutions. In the midst of a political crisis that led to the resignation of former President Park, South Korea is likely to find itself without a strong government when crucial decisions are taken, with direct consequences on its national security.

 

Image: Wikimedia

North Korea launches a warning to Trump and Xi Jinping

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A few hours before the summit between US President Donald Trump and his Chinese equivalent Xi Jinping, in Florida, the North Korean leader has ordered the launch of a KN-15 medium-range which missile which concluded its trajectory in the Sea of ​​Japan waters, after a short flight of about 60 kilometers.

South Korea strongly condemned the new provocation of Pyongyang, and the US Defense Secretary, Rex Tillerson, coldly addressed the episode: “The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.” The most decisive response came instead from Tokyo, speaking through Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga: “Japan can never tolerate North Korea’s repeated provocative actions. The government strictly protested and strongly condemned it. “

After five nuclear tests, two of which were conducted in 2016, today’s launch has renewed fears of the international community on the North Korean missile program. Pyongynag is still far from the objective of realizing a long-range warhead that can deliver a nuclear weapon on American soil , but analysts have speculated that the KN-15 missile was propelled by a solid propellant, easy to handle and transport, which would increase the striking capacity of the Asian regime.

The show of force occurs in the aftermath of two events that Pyongyang interpreted as serious threats. In recent days, Trump launched its warning: if China decides not to cooperate in containing the inconvenient regional ally, the US is ready to act alone against the enemy. At the same time, a joint military drill between the US, Japan and South Korea, which Pyongyang sees as a rehearsal for a possible invasion, just came to an end.

According to a spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry, the actions of enemy powers are bringing the Asian Peninsula on “brink of war”.

The current crisis, which undoubtedly will be the focus of talks between Trump and Jinping, was preceded, in February, by the launch of four ballistic missiles by North Koreans who have fallen close to the Japanese coast, and from an SLBM ( Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile) launch system test that would allow Pyongyang to bring its warheads into enemy waters and have an unprecedented second-strike capability, in case of destruction of its terrestrial arsenal. However, this hypothesis, according to analysts, is currently only theoretical and years will occour before Kim Jong Un will be able to rely on such an offensive capability.

In an increasingly overheated scenario, the Chinese government try to throw water on the fire. On the eve of Jinping and Trump summit, at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, owned by the US president, a spokesman for the Beijing Foreign Ministry has denied any link between the North Korean missile launch and the meeting between the two powers, urging all actors involved to avoid any further escalation.

China, at this moment, seems to be the only force able to put a stop to the conflict between Pyongyang and its many enemies.

Tillerson ends China trip with warm words from President Xi

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The warm words from Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ended his first trip to Asia since taking office with an agreement to work together with China on North Korea and putting aside trickier issues. China has been irritated at being repeatedly told by Washington to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and the US decision to base an advanced missile defence system in South Korea.

Meeting between Saudi Arabia's King Salman and Chinese President Xi Jinping: defense and security

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Energy and trade will for sure occupy an important role in the meeting between Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Chinese President Xi Jinping, but various other fields will be key in their talks, such as defense and security. Certainly energy cooperation is the foundation of relations between the two countries, Saudi Arabia is the world’s top exporter of crude oil and China is the world’s biggest importer, but China also offers important economic advantages to Saudi Arabia’s downstream and petrochemicals sectors, as the Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (BASIC) already holds a stake in a polycarbonate complex in Tianjin with China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation and Saudi Aramco holds a stake in the Fujian Refining & Petrochemical Company. Concerning the trade the visit was important to attract more Chinese investment to the Kingdom and the use of Chinese expertise to contribute to the diversification of the Saudi economy away from oil, due to China’s rapid economic development over the past three decades. Moreover also in the field of strategic relations, China is a key country and is a source of political support in the path of saudi selective economic reforms. Also counterterrorism is an emerging area of cooperation between the two countries, that includes a five-year plan for security cooperation including counterterrorism cooperation and joint military drills, and there is also a potential for chinese companies to win more Saudi defense procurement over the next decade and receive technology transfer.

China’s fight against corruption passes through media control

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In China corruption is a widespread problem, despite the draconian penalties that affect the officials recognized guilty of illegal conduct. To limit its spread, the government, at the impulse of President Xi Jinping, is set to launch a new round of anti-corruption program initiated three years ago, intensifying efforts with respect to 2015. In fact, the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection (CCDI) plans to conduct over 100 inspections by the end of the year.

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The anti-corruption campaign announced by Xi Jinping was widely publicized on the national media. On 19th February, the Chinese leader has spread its message through the country’s three major news agencies: Xinhua, People’s Daily and CCTV. Simultaneously, Xi wanted to launch a warning to the world of information, stating that the national media must demonstrate absolute dedication and loyalty to the party and thus, indirectly, to the premier itself. The answer was not long in coming, in the sign of a willing submission. The home page of the three agencies were quickly colonized by a profusion of praise and support claims in favor of the party and its leadership, in view of the campaign launch.

According to analysts, Xi Jinping’s initiative does not aim simply to tighten anti-corruption controls, but responds to a total change of political agenda towards the media. The President wants to operate a crackdown on China’s information world, to better control the news dissemination. Wang Qishan, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee and head of the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection, contributed to corroborate this hypothesis. During the campaign presentation conference, Wang announced that the Ministry of Propaganda and the State Administration for printing, publishing, radio, film and television (which applies censorship directives) will be put under depth scrutiny. A further warning, not too veiled.

The anti-corruption operation, however, will cover all of the state structure focal points and will affect, according to the announcements, 36 different public bodies spread across all areas of expertise. From justice to agriculture, from the religious affairs to tourism, no one can be considered safe from the upcoming government inspectors investigations. Four provincial governments also will be sieved.

Many of the Commission’s targets are related to the management and implementation of industrial policies. The party wants to contribute thereby to the achievement of economic goals set for 2016, at national level, reducing the levels of over-production and encouraging the merger of major state industries. These changes, given its scale, could generate discontent and opposition within the concerned state agencies. And then, the role of the media in this story is clarified. Tighter control on information would ensure a favorable narrative of events and, therefore, a broader base of support for the transformation in agenda.

 

Luca Marchesini

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Luca Marchesini
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