Connect with us

World

China looms large as S.Korea presidential hopefuls meet U.S. diplomat

Published

on

November 10, 2021

By Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith

SEOUL (Reuters) – A senior U.S. diplomat will meet newly selected presidential candidates in South Korea this week, ahead of next year’s election that will shape the future of relations between the two allies.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink was due to arrive in Seoul on Wednesday, with plans to hold separate talks with ruling Democratic Party candidate Lee Jae-myung, and Yoon Suk-yeol of the main opposition People Power Party.

Advertisement

While domestic issues such as housing prices are expected to dominate the March 9 election, analysts say the result will also shape South Korea’s balancing act between China and the United States, and how South Korea coordinates with its U.S. ally on North Korea.

“With the partisan split on the issue of U.S.-China relations, the upcoming election will determine how South Korea balances between the U.S. and China in the next five years,” the Washington-based Stimson Center think tank said in a recent report.

U.S President Joe Biden’s administration has been focused on marshalling Asian alliances to counter what it has called potential “coercion and aggression” by China.

That represents a challenge for South Korea, which is not eager to provoke China – its largest economic partner.

South Korea paid a heavy economic price when China retaliated over the 2017 deployment of a U.S. missile defence system in South Korea. South Korea’s deep reliance on China was further highlighted this week by a critical shortage of urea https://www.reuters.com/world/china/skorean-drivers-panic-buy-urea-after-china-tightens-supply-2021-11-05, an additive used in diesel vehicles to reduce emissions, after China tightened exports.

Advertisement

Democratic Party candidate Lee has argued that there is no need for South Korea to limit itself by choosing between China and the United States, as they become increasingly competitive.

“I wish our country would take the path where we are not unilaterally swayed, abandoned or excluded by either side, and I am confident I can do that,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“If you ask me to choose between the United States and China, I would say there aren’t only two options for us to choose,” he said.

In a display of his balancing policy, Lee’s campaign said he had scheduled talks with the Chinese ambassador just after his meeting with Kritenbrink on Thursday. Yoon’s campaign said it has not yet scheduled a meeting with Chinese officials.

The United States is South Korea’s largest and oldest ally, and stations about 28,500 troops in South Korea as part of efforts to deter North Korea since the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Advertisement

NORTH KOREAN TIES

On the U.S. missiles that angered China, Lee said it was hard to see them as completely in South Korea’s interest, but since they were already deployed, he would work to resolve any issues with them in place.

The conservative Yoon has signalled he would take a more openly pro-U.S. stance, and has called for Seoul to be less ambiguous in its relations between Washington and Beijing.

The conservatives have signalled they could be open to officially joining the Quad, a diplomatic group that includes the United States, Japan, Australia and India.

Over the summer, Yoon became embroiled in an unusual public debate with China’s ambassador over comments about the U.S. missile defence system.

Advertisement

The dispute, which played out in duelling newspaper articles, drew a warning from South Korea’s foreign ministry which told the Chinese ambassador to “exercise discretion” when commenting on the country’s politicians, media reported at the time.

On North Korea, neither candidate takes a stance that would represent a drastic shift from the status quo, with both saying they would be willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and seek to improve relations.

Lee has said he wants to approach North Korea from a “practical” standpoint, using language that echoes the Biden administration.

But Yoon may be closer to the U.S. position in his demand that any economic cooperation between the two Koreas be contingent on the North’s progress toward denuclearization.

(Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Advertisement

Continue Reading
Advertisement

World

Explainer-What remains of the Iran nuclear deal as talks resume?

Published

on

November 28, 2021

By Francois Murphy

VIENNA (Reuters) – Talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are to resume in Vienna on Monday, with Iran’s atomic advances raising doubt https://www.reuters.com/markets/commodities/low-expectations-nuclear-talks-iran-creates-facts-grounds-2021-11-28 as to whether a breakthrough can be made to bring Tehran and the United States back into full compliance with the accord.

Since the United States under then-President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, Iran has breached many of its deal’s restrictions designed to lengthen the time it would need to generate enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb to at least a year from 2-3 months – the so-called “breakout time”.

Advertisement

Iran says it only wants to enrich uranium for civil uses. But many suspect it is at least seeking to gain leverage in the indirect talks with the United States by getting closer to being able to produce a nuclear weapon.

How close is Iran to being able to do so, and what remains of the deal’s restrictions?

BREAKOUT TIME

Experts generally put breakout time at around three to six weeks but say weaponisation would take longer – often roughly two years. Israel’s finance minister recently said https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israeli-minister-says-iran-could-have-nuclear-arms-within-5-years-2021-11-23 Iran could have nuclear weapons within five years.

ENRICHMENT

Advertisement

The deal restricts the purity to which Iran can enrich uranium to 3.67%, far below the roughly 90% that is weapons-grade or the 20% Iran reached before the deal. Iran is now enriching to various levels, the highest being around 60%.

The deal also says Iran can only produce, or accumulate, enriched uranium with just over 5,000 of its least efficient, first-generation centrifuges at one facility: the underground Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz.

The deal lets Iran enrich for research, without accumulating enriched uranium, with small numbers of advanced centrifuges, which are often at least twice as efficient as the IR-1.

Iran is now refining uranium with hundreds of advanced centrifuges both at the FEP and the above-ground Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) at Natanz.

It is also enriching with more than 1,000 IR-1s at Fordow, a plant buried inside a mountain, and plans to do the same with more than 100 advanced centrifuges already installed there.

Advertisement

URANIUM STOCKPILE

The International Atomic Energy Agency, policing Iranian nuclear activities, estimated this month https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/21/11/gov2021-51.pdf that Tehran’s stock of enriched uranium is just under 2.5 tonnes, more than 12 times the 202.8-kg (446-pound) limit imposed by the deal, but less than the more than five tonnes it had before the deal.

That said, it is now enriching to a higher level and has around 17.7 kg of uranium enriched to up to 60%. It takes around 25 kg of weapons-grade uranium to make one nuclear bomb.

INSPECTIONS AND MONITORING

The deal made Iran implement the IAEA’s so-called Additional Protocol, which allows for snap inspections of undeclared sites. It also expanded IAEA monitoring by cameras and other devices beyond the core activities and inspections covered by Iran’s long-standing Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA.

Advertisement

Iran has stopped implementing the Additional Protocol and is allowing the extra monitoring to continue only in a black-box-type arrangement https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-iaea-deal-idUSKBN2AN1UU, whereby the data from cameras and other devices is collected and stored but the IAEA does not have access to it, at least for the time being.

The one exception https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/iaea-chief-says-negotiations-iran-proved-inconclusive-2021-11-24 to the continued monitoring is a centrifuge-parts workshop at the TESA Karaj complex, which was hit by apparent sabotage in June that destroyed one of four IAEA cameras there, after which Iran removed all of them. Iran has not let the IAEA re-install the cameras since.

POTENTIAL WEAPONISATION

Iran has produced uranium metal, both enriched to 20% and not enriched. This alarms Western powers because making uranium metal is a pivotal step towards producing bombs and no country has done it without eventually developing nuclear weapons.

Iran says it is working on reactor fuel.

Advertisement

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Continue Reading

World

Former Cambodian premier Prince Norodom Ranariddh dies at 77

Published

on

November 28, 2021

By Prak Chan Thul

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) -Cambodian former prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the current king’s half-brother, who spent his later years in the political shadow of his one-time rival Prime Minister Hun Sen, has died in France. He was 77.

The prince, whose royalist political party won elections in 1993, was ousted in a 1997 coup by coalition partner Hun Sen, who remains Cambodia’s authoritarian leader.

Advertisement

Hun Sen said in a statement on Sunday that he and his wife were “heartbroken” at the news, calling Ranariddh “a dignitary, (a) member of the royal family who was patriotic to the nation, religion, the king”.

Ranariddh was the most political member of Cambodia’s royal family in recent decades, leading his Funcinpec party in elections for years after he was ousted.

But in 2017, he dismayed https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cambodia-politics-prince-idUSKBN1CK020 Cambodia’s weakened opposition by backing the dissolution of another party whose leader was jailed on treason charges. Hun Sen has since effectively sidelined all opposition and now presides over a one-party parliament.

Explaining his position, Ranariddh told Reuters that year: “… Hun Sen, you want or you don’t want, you like him or you don’t like him, he brings about this national unity.”

His younger half-brother, King Norodom Sihamoni, has occupied the Cambodian throne since the abdication of their father, King Norodom Sihanouk https://www.reuters.com/article/oukwd-uk-cambodia-sihanouk-idAFBRE89D0K120121015, in 2004. Sihanouk died aged 89 in 2012 in Beijing.

Advertisement

Lao Mong Hay, a veteran Cambodian analyst, said Ranariddh had lacked the political savvy of his father.

“He was soon outwitted and overthrown by his far more talented rival,” Lao Mong Hay said, citing a Cambodian proverb that 10 learned persons are less than one talented person. “So Norodom Ranariddh happened to be one of those 10.”

Ranariddh’s career reflected the way Hun Sen has neutralized rivals since defecting from the Khmer Rouge “killing fields” regime in the late 1970s to help drive it from power.

Hun Sen led the Vietnam-backed Communist government in Phnom Penh for more than a decade while the Khmer Rouge waged a guerrilla insurgency.

The royal family lived in exile during this time, headed by former absolute ruler Sihanouk, who had led Cambodia to independence from France and abdicated a first time to enter democratic politics and become prime minister before the Khmer Rouge takeover in 1975.

Advertisement

Ranariddh was working as a French law lecturer when his father called him to contest the 1993 elections organised by the United Nations as part of a peace process.

With royalist sentiment strong, Ranariddh won the elections. But when Hun Sen threatened a return to war, a political deal resulted in a coalition government making Ranariddh “first prime minister”, Hun Sen “second prime minister” and returning King Sihanouk to the throne as constitutional monarch.

The uneasy coalition lasted four years before Ranariddh was overthrown by forces loyal to Hun Sen and driven into exile.

After international pressure, Ranariddh was allowed to return and contest elections a year later, but he never again came close to winning and entered into on-and-off alliances with Hun Sen.

(Writing by Kay JohnsonEditing by Frances Kerry, Mark Heinrich and Catherine Evans)

Advertisement

Continue Reading

World

Thousands protest against Czech COVID measures as hospitals fill

Published

on

November 28, 2021

PRAGUE (Reuters) – Several thousand people protested in Prague against anti-coronavirus restrictions on Sunday as many Czech hospitals halted non-urgent procedures in the face of one of the world’s fastest rates of new infections.

Gathered in a park overlooking the Czech capital’s centre, protesters waved national flags and carried signs with slogans such as: “Get vaccinated? Over your dead bodies”.

The outgoing government toughened measures on Thursday, including a ban on Christmas markets, which was one of the main themes at Sunday’s rally.

Advertisement

“I am here to fight for freedom. I am here because I don’t agree with what is happening today,” Jiri Hulec told Reuters.

Czech hospitals, including the largest one, Prague’s Motol, have ceased planned operations and limited other care in the past days as the number of patients with COVID-19 has doubled to around 6,000 over the past three weeks.

Newly-appointed Prime Minister Petr Fiala earlier called on people to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others from serious conditions if infected.

Only 58.5% of Czechs are vaccinated against coronavirus, compared to a European Union average of 65.8%, data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control shows.

(Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Alexander Smith)

Advertisement

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending