Asia/Oceania/Africa update: September 15-16 2018



Indian soldiers killed five Kashmiri rebels in a gun battle on Saturday, then killed at least one Kashmiri civilian when they fired on a crowd of people gathered to protest those deaths. Meanwhile, Indian forces in Kashmir are facing a good deal of public anger as well as criticism from international human rights organizations, after an image surfaced of Indian soldiers dragging the dead body of a Kashmiri militant on the ground with a rope following an engagement last Thursday. Indian officials say this is standard procedure after a battle, due to the possibility that militants may have rigged their dead with explosives.


With the Trump administration about to impose more tariffs on China, a decision that the Chinese government says will put an end to negotiations between Washington and Beijing, Wall Street bigwigs are trying and apparently failing to head off a full-scale trade war:

Wall Street has long gambled that helping China would pay off. China has been slow to open its vast but tightly controlled financial markets, and Wall Street banks hope to get more business advising Chinese companies on acquisitions in the United States, lending money and selling financial services. Pressure from the Trump administration is now bearing fruit as China has begun to open its financial markets to foreign banks, though a worsening trade war could stymie that progress.

The financial sector’s arguments have often found a sympathetic ear in Washington. Over the past two decades, China has emerged as a major global economic growth driver and as an important customer for many American companies, including Apple, Qualcomm and General Motors.

But the Trump administration’s trade hawks have so far prevailed against Wall Street-friendly voices of trade moderation, such as Mr. Mnuchin, a onetime Goldman Sachs executive. That is partly because the trade war hasn’t shown President Trump much downside. His stance has won support from both parties. The United States economy shows few signs of trade-war damage, and markets continue to rise.


Beijing accused the Taiwanese government of spying on Sunday and demanded that it cease and desist. It’s claiming that Chinese students studying in Taiwan have been subject to approaches by Taiwanese spy agencies seeking to turn them into assets. The Taiwanese government denies the charges, but it has apparently been ramping up its espionage activities. Taiwan is using the information it collects to improve its relations with major military players in the Indo-Pacific region (India, Japan, Australia, and the US in particular) as a counterweight to recent diplomatic pressure from the mainland.


It’s now been three months since the Donald Trump-Kim Jong-un summit in Singapore, and the big question remains whether North Korea has actually decided to denuclearize or has just figured out how to make Trump happy:

Current and former intelligence officials say new assessments suggest that Mr. Kim has carefully read Mr. Trump and concluded that as long as the optics are good, and the exchanges between the two leaders are warm, he can hold off demands for progress toward disarmament. If Mr. Kim does not conduct tests, Mr. Trump is unlikely to call out evidence of a continued nuclear buildup.

“I’m shocked at how superficial things have been,” said Jung H. Pak, the C.I.A.’s mission leader for North Korea until she left last year for the Brookings Institution. “I think the North Koreans smell dysfunction and they see dysfunction in the president’s tweets and his compliments and his willingness to meet again.”


South Korean President Moon Jae-in will head to Pyongyang on Tuesday for another summit with Kim. He’ll be looking to nudge Kim toward making additional moves to denuclearize, whether substantive or cosmetic, and will likely want to talk about reducing the military presence on both sides of the Korean border. The two leaders may also discuss a potential Korean War peace treaty, but it’s clear that the United States still views a treaty as a concession to Pyongyang and doesn’t want to take that step until North Korea has moved on its nuclear program. Kim (and possibly Moon as well) seem to view a peace treaty as a necessary first step to reassure North Korea that it can reduce its nuclear arsenal without worrying about losing its deterrence factor.



New polling indicates that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has made a very good first impression on Australian voters, who now prefer him by 10 points over Labor Party leader Bill Shorten as PM. But while the gap between Labor and Morrison’s Liberal Party has narrowed a bit, Labor still leads the Liberals by six points in a head to head matchup.



Suspected Islamist extremists killed at least nine people over two attacks in Burkina Faso’s increasingly volatile east on Friday. Both attacks occurred in the country’s Est province.


It took South Sudanese rebels mere days to accuse the government of violating their new peace accord. After President Salva Kiir and rebel leaders including Riek Machar signed the deal on Wednesday, rebels say that government forces twice attacked rebel positions in the country’s southern Yei River province early Friday morning. The government forces apparently also attacked United Nations peacekeepers in the province.


“Several” people were reportedly killed and hundreds displaced in a series of attacks on the outskirts of Addis Ababa that began Saturday afternoon and continued overnight. Some 70 suspects have been arrested but little is known about who they are or what their motive might have been. Unconfirmed reports suggest they may have been Oromo militants.


In happier and hopefully more momentous news, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki formally signed an agreement that ended their countries’ 20 years of conflict on Sunday in the Saudi city of Jeddah:


Ethiopian officials say they carried out an airstrike in Somalia that killed some 70 al-Shabab fighters. Those fighters were apparently about to attack an Ethiopian peacekeeping contingent. They did not say when they conducted the strike.


The Chadian army killed two civilians in the town of Kouri Bougoudi, along the Libyan border, in a helicopter attack on Thursday. A militant group called the Military Command Council for the Salvation of the Republic (CCMSR), which includes ex-rebel fighters from Darfur and partisans of former Chadian President Hissène Habré, has been growing in strength in that part of the country since 2016 and its forces were the target of the attack.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.