Indo-Pacific Geopolitics Newsletter 08/21/2023



Geopolitics Newsletter August 14 – 21, 2023


US President Joe Biden hosted Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol at Camp David this week for the first-ever trilateral summit between the three strategic—if somewhat historically tense—allies. The three allies agreed to annual military exercises, establish a three-way crisis hotline, increase ballistic missile cooperation, and organize annual trilateral meetings.

That Tokyo and Seoul agreed to such formal security arrangements is notable given their historic animosity arising from unresolved historical grievances. This animosity had kept tensions between the two countries at boiling point for the past decade and only reached a resolution this year.

The trilateral agreement falls well short of a formal security alliance—there is no mutual defense commitment for the parties. However, the deal is a win for the Biden administration and its policy of containing China—a sentiment likely shared by Kishida, who is currently undertaking an unprecedented military build-up aimed primarily at China. However, for President Yoon, the partnership advances his administration’s hawkish policy toward North Korea. More significant for the Indo-Pacific region and for Biden, the security agreement survives any change of president in Washington such as the possible return of isolationist Donald J Trump, and thus adds a new structure to the security architecture of the region. Read more


tripartite security cooperation

President Joe Biden, President Yoon Suk-Yeol, and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida meet to discuss tripartite security cooperation | Source: AP/Susan Walsh


China concluded military exercises in the East China Sea – Aug. 14

The Chinese military concluded naval exercises in the East China Sea this week. Despite signing a peace-driven pact with ASEAN members recently, Beijing continues to direct shows of force at the US Navy’s ongoing presence in Taiwan and regional waters, where China and various ASEAN countries dispute ownership of territorial seas. Read more

Prosecutors questioned South Korean DP opposition leader Lee – Aug. 17

Opposition Democratic Party (DP) leader Lee Jae Myung underwent a third round of questioning this week by district prosecutors following a string of corruption, bribery, and property development scandals. Denying any wrongdoing, the DP continue to protect Lee from arrest in the unicameral National Assembly as their voting strength prevents the required majority vote in the Assembly needed to arrest their leader. Read more

UNSC met to discuss human rights in North Korea – Aug. 17

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) agreed to hold discussions this week following US, Albanian and Japanese requests to conduct a meeting on North Korea’s human rights issues. The meeting focused on North Korea’s use of forced labor and Japanese abductees, which had been historically opposed by the West via the UNSC. Read more

Pacific Partnership 2023 concluded Vietnam mission – Aug. 18

Tuy Hua City hosted this year’s US Pacific Fleet—America’s annual humanitarian mission, during which, with partners, US sailors conducted humanitarian response drills such as natural disaster mitigation and recovery and infrastructure redevelopment. Despite celebrating 10 years of Vietnam-US Comprehensive Partnership, Hanoi is yet to agree on an upgrade of interoperability levels due to the Beijing regional presence. Read more

Seventh China-South Asia Expo concluded – Aug. 20

Jointly hosted by China’s Ministry of Commerce and the provincial government of Yunnan, the five-day Expo ran alongside a separate China-Kunming economic fair and aimed to expand trading opportunities between the southern Yunnan province and South Asian economies such as fast-developing India. Read more


Colombian government, ELN peace met for talks in Venezuela – Aug. 14

Officials from the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN)—a Marxist paramilitary group that has fought the Colombian state since 1964—held peace talks in Venezuela this week. ELN agreed to a historical six-month ceasefire in the last fortnight but talks are at a delicate stage and remain vulnerable to derailment. Read more

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Dermer visited the US – Aug. 17

Ron Dermer, strategic affairs minister for Israel, conducted an official visit to the US this week. His visit aligns with US-led normalization efforts for the growth in friendly Israel-Saudi Arabia relations following years of regional animosity. Read more

G20 Digital Economy Ministerial meeting began in India – Aug. 19

The purpose of the meeting was to prepare a roadmap for the next ministerial meeting on the digital economy, security, and infrastructure. Holding the current rotating G20 presidency, India used the meeting to advocate for lower digital transition costs for lower and middle-income economies with a particular focus on small and medium-sized businesses within developing countries. Read more

National Security

Ukraine extended martial law and mobilization order – Aug. 18

Decreed first soon after the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, martial law prevents elections from being held, while the general mobilization orders prevent all 18–60-year-old males from leaving the country. Consequently, presidential elections scheduled for March 2024 have been pushed back until martial law is over. Ukraine’s parliament granted the latest extension by an overwhelming majority through November 18. Read more

Training officially began for Ukrainian F-16 trainee pilots – Aug. 20

The Ukrainian government confirmed this week that the first group of Ukraine’s air force pilots has begun the long-awaited training for the F-16 fighter jets. The confirmation comes after the Biden administration gave formal approval on August 17 for Denmark and the Netherlands to transfer F-16s to Ukraine, should they wish. Read more [External]

Economics & Technology

Russian spacecraft entered the moon’s orbit before crashing – Aug. 16

The lunar mission is the first one from Russia since 1976 when a spacecraft was sent to the moon by the Soviet Union. The unmanned Lunar-25 spacecraft ended up crashing onto the surface of the moon on August 20 after originally aiming to land and conduct research into water on the moon. The mission comes amid renewed geostrategic competition in space with India sending a mission to the moon last year and Japan also showing interest in lunar missions.  Read More

China began a one-year review of anti-dumping tariffs – Aug. 20

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce began a one-year review of anti-dumping tariffs on halogenated rubber imports from the US, UK, EU, and Singapore. Introduced in 2018, the tariffs were due to expire this week. Instead, they will stay in place for another year while the probe is being conducted amid an ongoing trade war between China and the US. Read More

Politics & Society

Liberian women signed a peace manifesto – Aug. 17

The manifesto was signed this week at the Liberian Women’s Peace Summit. The manifesto advocates for security and electoral practices to maintain peace in communities divided by ethnic, tribal, and religious differences. It is the initiative of the human rights non-governmental organization, the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa. Read More

Prince William criticized for non-attendance at Women’s FIFA World Cup Final – Aug. 20

The Prince of Wales is also the president and patron of the Football Association of England and did not attend the final ostensibly out of environmental concerns for the flight’s carbon footprint. Spain defeated England 1-0 in the final held in Sydney, Australia culminating in a historic world cup for international women’s soccer in terms of crowds and viewership. The Queen of Spain with her daughter attended and celebrated with the team on the pitch. Read more [External]


US President Joe Biden to arrive in Hawaii to survey massive wildfire damage – Aug. 21

The President arrives amid mounting criticism of his scant mention of the natural disaster in the past week. The wildfires on the island of Maui have killed over 100 people with 1000 still missing. Read more [External]

BRICS Summit begins – Aug. 22

On the agenda is the expansion of the group of developing countries largely united in their tacit support of its member, Russia, in the latter’s invasion of Ukraine. Read more [External]

Thailand’s parliament scheduled to hold another vote for Prime Minister – Aug. 22

It comes two weeks after the military-controlled parliament banned the leading candidate from sitting in parliament, as another ex-PM—ousted in a 2006 coup—returns to the country. Read more [External]


Contributions by: John Milo and Joseph Egidio