GUNS OVER BUTTER
North Korean economy under threat as country celebrates foundation day
Today, North Koreans celebrate Foundation Day. Pyongyang may ring in the country’s 69th birthday with yet another missile test, overshadowing economic progress.
Though North Korea is still wracked by poverty and starvation, the country’s economy grew by 3.9% in 2016, according to South Korea’s central bank, the highest growth rate the North has seen in over a decade. This is largely due to the expansion of private enterprise, which has been encouraged by Kim Jong Un’s allowing nearly 400 new markets during his reign. Regardless, it is the black market that accounts for most North Koreans’ personal prosperity, generating between 70% and 90% of personal income.
Pyongyang may be jeopardising these developments through its aggressive posture. UNSC sanctions are set to cut export revenue by a third. Further measures, which are almost certain if Mr Kim continues his missile tests, could range from a textile import ban to more extreme and unlikely measures, like cutting off North Korea’s oil supply. If closer scrutiny is applied to countries supplying the black market’s goods, either voluntarily or through “secondary sanctions”, this vital sector could take a serious blow.
Trump heads to Camp David amid budgetary deal
Today, President Trump and his cabinet arrive at Camp David for a three day retreat, where they are expected to discuss the President’s legislative agenda.
Mr Trump’s legislative priorities are threatened by a budgetary deal that he himself struck with Congressional Democrats. Defying colleagues in the GOP leadership, Trump endorsed legislation that would simultaneously fund relief for the victims of Hurricane Harvey and prevent a government shutdown by raising the debt ceiling for another three months.
Although Trump has long had a frayed relationship with the Republican leadership, this is the first time he has shunned them in favour of Democrats, infuriating some members of the GOP.
Additionally, kicking the budgetary can just three months down the road means that painstaking negotiations over the divisive issue will continue to eat up time, diverting efforts away from constructing the GOP’s ambitious tax reform plan.
Trump will likely be impressed by his deal-making prowess as he heads to Camp David, but by poisoning his relationship with the Congressional GOP and cluttering the congressional agenda, Trump’s ability to pass his preferred legislation through Congress will be severely hampered, restricting his administration’s actions both at home and abroad.
CALMING A CONFLICT
India’s interior minister visits Jammu and Kashmir to soothe tensions
India’s interior minister will head to the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir in the country’s north today. With the aim of pacifying the Kashmir Valley, Rajnath Singh will meet with civil society and political leaders.
Ever since India became independent in 1947, Jammu and Kashmir—the country’s only state with a majority Muslim population—has been stifled by unrest. The lingering conflict with Pakistan over control of the Kashmir Valley is a key driver of this, as Islamabad is fuelling secessionist tendencies by arming and training militant anti-India groups.
The most recent round of protests against Indian rule started in July last year, after a popular commander of an Islamic militia was killed by security forces. In the ensuing protests, more than 100 people were killed and thousands injured.
While President Narendra Modi has called for calm, saying that the conflict ‘cannot be solved by abuse or bullets but by embracing every Kashmiri’, a settlement seems elusive. Talks with Pakistan have virtually collapsed after the 2008 Mumbai bombings, and despite Mr Modi’s words, New Delhi does not seem to be willing to compromise, as it refuses to hold an independence referendum on the region’s future.
Britain gets a new anti-Brexit party
A new British political party—The UK Democrats—will be launched today to pursue an anti-Brexit agenda. The pro-EU party is being championed by James Chapman, a former aid to Brexit Secretary David Davis, who says “two people in the cabinet” have expressed interest in the party; Mr Chapman stopped short of suggesting they would quit Theresa May’s Conservative government.