Tuesday, May 23

Tuesday, May 23

SOUTH KOREA’S PARK GEUN-HYE IN COURT FACES LIFE SENTENCE ON CRIMINAL CHARGES Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye will appear

SOUTH KOREA’S PARK GEUN-HYE IN COURT

FACES LIFE SENTENCE ON CRIMINAL CHARGES

Photo:EPA

Photo: EPA

Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye will appear in court on criminal charges for the first time on Tuesday. Ms Park faces 13 indictments, including bribery, coercion and leaking state secrets.

The disgraced leader was forced from office in March after allegations she abused her office to benefit Choi Soon-sil, a long-time friend.

Prosecutors assert Park allowed Choi to exploit her powerful position to solicit bribes and favours from South Korean conglomerates, including Samsung and retail giant Lotte. While the Constitutional Court unanimously upheld her impeachment on the same grounds, Park denies all wrongdoing.

Beyond the courtroom, the case has evoked public outrage at the apparent impunity shown by the country’s most powerful—Samsung chief Jay Y Lee is currently in custody on bribery allegations.

Even before Park’s impeachment, large street demonstrations had all but condemned her; the May 9 election, won by progressive Moon Jae-in, highlights a swing against pro-business conservatives.

Facing life in jail, Park will learn her fate in October.

TRUMP VISITS BETHLEHEM

MEETS PALESTINIAN DELEGATION 

Photo: Reuters/Carlos Barria

Photo: Reuters/Carlos Barria

Donald Trump is set to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem on Tuesday to discuss the resumption of peace talks with Israel. Trump calls finding an agreement to the seven-decade conflict the “ultimate deal” and appears highly motivated to succeed where his predecessors have failed.

However, Mr Trump’s commitment to a two-state solution, long the standard policy in Washington, is shaky. At a February 15 press conference with Benjamin Netanyahu the president said “I like the one [solution] both parties like”. He also declined to voice support for two states when Abbas visited the White House on May 3.

In the absence of two separate Palestinian and Israeli states, a ‘one-state solution’ of sorts must emerge. But such an outcome is fiercely opposed by both sides, not least because each has an insatiable desire for their own independence and national identity.

But decades of Israeli settlement building in the West Bank has made a two-state solution virtually untenable. With a huge amount of extremely complicated land swaps now needed for a two-state deal to work, Trump and his hosts certainly have their work cut out for them.

US BUDGET DELIVERED TO CONGRESS

DEEP CUTS A TOUGH PILL TO SWALLOW

Photo: US Navy

Photo: US Navy

The Pentagon is slated to get a major boost when the Trump administration’s 2018 budget is sent to Congress on Tuesday.

More munitions are a key request; the US-led anti-ISIS coalition dropped 3878 munitions in March—the most since operations began nearly three years ago. A newer model Flight III destroyer is also on the wish list, in line with Donald Trump’s plan to add an additional 45 vessels to the Obama administration’s naval expansion, bringing the total fighting force to 350.

The White House is also requesting $200 billion over ten years to restore the country’s deteriorating infrastructure, a step towards the president’s promise to devote $1 trillion to the effort.

However, lawmakers will find Trump’s budget difficult to swallow. Medicaid, anti-poverty programs and foreign aid are likely targets for spending cuts, a tough sell for Congress, which has the final call on all spending decisions.

 

HAPPENING ELSEWHERE…

OPEC will begin three days of deliberations about extending an oil production freeze. An announcement is expected on Wednesday. It’s likely the freeze will be extended to 2018 as producers seek to boost stubbornly low prices.

After emerging victorious from the May 4 election, Algeria’s government—headed by veteran President Abdelaziz Bouteflika—will form a new cabinet. Bouteflika invited the Islamist opposition Movement for a Society of Peace to join the new government but was rebuffed. Reports suggest the invitation has caused internal divisions in the Islamist party.

Former CIA Director John Brennan will testify in both open- and closed-door hearings of the House Intelligence Committee as part of an investigation into Russian interference in last year’s election. Recently-fired FBI Director James Comey is expected to appear before a public session at the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.