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Uncertainty as Malaysia goes to the Polls

7 May 2018

On 9 May Malaysians will elect the new Parliament and the new Prime Minister, after 9 years of Najib Razak-led governments. The results are far from being predictable. Despite robust economic growth and positive achievements during his term in office, PM Najib is embroiled in ongoing scandals and has to cope with the political return of his old mentor, former PM Mahathir Mohamad leading the opposition. There is also growing dissatisfaction linked to the rising costs of living. Two main coalitions are running for the Premiership the Najib-led Barisan National (BN) coalition and the Mahathir-led Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition,[1] diverging on three main issues: ethnic divides, economics and relations with China.

[1] Pakatan Harapan coalition is made up of Mahathir Mohamad’s Malaysian United Indigenous Party (PPBM), Democratic Action Party, Anwar Ibrahim’s People’s Justice Party (PKR) and National Trust Party (AMANAH). 

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The Historic Kim-Moon Summit

30 April 2018

The third inter-Korean summit, the first in over ten years, took place on 27 April 2018 at the Peace House in Panmunjom. The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, met with South Korea’s president Moon Jae-In in what was the first encounter of two Korean heads of state on South Korean territory. The historic meeting has been described as a success by all the main players, including Trump. Both sides committed themselves to the establishment of a solid peace regime on the peninsula and complete denuclearization.

The “Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula” which was released at the end of the summit, starts out with the promise “before the 80 million Korean people and the whole world that there will be no more war on the Korean peninsula and thus a new era of peace has begun”. Ending the armistice agreement of 1953 by signing a peace treaty, a step which will require the support of the United States and China as signatories of the armistice, would be a crucial step towards normalization of relations not just between the two Koreas but also between Pyongyang and Washington. The regime in the North has stated repeatedly that a security guarantee would make the possession of nuclear weapons dispensable, lastly during Kim’s visit to Beijing at the end of March.

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Macron in India

19 March 2018

Against the backdrop of a packed domestic reform agenda, French President Emmanuel Macron paid a State visit to India on 9-12 March 2018. The visit boosted the 20-year-old strategic partnership, as the leaders signed 14 agreements in very diverse areas. Highlights of the visit included a major step forward on cooperation on solar power and nuclear energy, a key maritime security agreement and closer defence cooperation, amidst shared concerns over China’s growing assertiveness in the Indian Ocean.

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Trump Kim

Trump to meet 'Rocket Man'

13 March 2018

Trump agrees to meet “Rocket Man’

Developments on the Korean peninsula are suddenly moving at breakneck speed. Following the Olympic detente, President Kim Jong-Un hosted a dinner for a high-ranking South Korean delegation in Pyongyang on 5 March. He told his startled guests that North Korea was committed to denuclearisation and, for as long as dialogue continued, the North would refrain from further missile or nuclear tests. But the most surprising bombshell was that Kim also said he was eager to meet with the President Trump as soon as possible. The South Korea delegation rushed to Washington to inform Trump who, without consulting anyone, immediately accepted the invitation.

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olympic thaw

Will the Olympic Thaw Hold?

28 February 2018

On 25 February the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang ended with a spectacular closing ceremony – K-Pop, fireworks, a lightshow involving 300 Intel Shooting Star drones. And yet it was, again, North Korea, who put on the real show, stating they were ready for direct talks with the US. 

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Korean olympic detente

The Korean Olympic Détente - Sport, Diplomacy and the Army of Beauties

8 February 2018

On 9 February the Winter Olympic Games will commence in Pyeongchang, just 80 km from the demilitarized zone that divides Korea. But to the surprise of many, South and North Korea will march together at the opening ceremony under a Unification Flag – a pale blue shape of the Korean peninsula against a white background, designed to represent all of Korea. It won’t be the first time this happens; North Korea has quite a history at the Olympics which it boycotted only twice – the 1984 Games in Los Angeles and the 1988 Games in Seoul. But there will be a number of “firsts” at this year’s games.

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Theresa May in China

4 February 2018

Even if the results were meagre, a beleaguered Theresa May probably welcomed the opportunity to escape the febrile Westminster atmosphere for a three day visit to China this week. The British prime minister heads a minority government and continues to be haunted by a possible leadership challenge as well as constant Cabinet in-fighting over a hard v soft Brexit.

Her principal aims in China were to try and convince Chinese leaders that she would be in power for some time and that post-Brexit, there would be a new ‘golden age’ of UK-China relations. President Xi and Prime Minister Li said that there could be close relations whatever the UK’s future status.

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Macron and Xi

“Makelong” visits China

19 January 2018

During his 8-10 January visit to China, the first by an EU leader since the 19th CCP Party Congress, President Macron ( 马克龙 “Makelong” in Chinese) made a strong plea for closer EU-China cooperation based on reciprocity.

Macron’s visit started in Xi’An, the departure point of the ancient Silk Road, and thus a highly symbolic choice to endorse Xi Jin Ping’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Whole welcoming Xi’s initiative, Macron warned that cooperation should not be “one-way”. Reciprocity and better access to the Chinese market were thus catchwords of Macron’s visit, as he seeks to reduce France’s trade deficit with China. 

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EU Olive Branch to Thailand

EU Olive Branch for Thailand

11 December 2017

On 11 December, the EU Foreign Affairs Council agreed on a gradual political re-engagement with Thailand. Recalling the importance the EU attaches to its relations with Thailand, and the constructive role which Thailand plays as the current country coordinator for EU-ASEAN relations, the Council called for the urgent restoration of the democratic process in Thailand through credible and inclusive elections and the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

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Tusk in manila

Tusk and Trump in Asia

18 November 2017

While most attention has been on President Trump’s visit to Asia, it is important to recognize the significance of President Tusk’s visit to Manila where he attended an ASEAN-EU Summit marking the 40th anniversary of the establishment of ASEAN-EU relations, and also, for the first time, attended the East Asia Summit (EAS).

At the EU-ASEAN meeting, leaders endorsed the recent Action Plan (2018-22) between the two blocks and agreed to accelerate moves towards a Strategic Partnership. Tusk also reiterated the EU's support to the EU-ASEAN integration process and called for strengthened EU-ASEAN cooperation on security and global challenges. Both sides emphasised the importance of working together to reinforce the rules-based international system and multilateralism.

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