In December 1999, Indian Airlines flight 1C-814 was hijacked shortly after taking off from Kathmandu, Nepal, en route to New Delhi. After several stops, the hijackers flew the aircraft to Kandahar, Afghanistan, where they threatened to kill the hostages unless several incarcerated terrorists in India were released. Under considerable public pressure, the Indian government agreed to the swap. One of the terrorists was Maulana Masood Azhar, a key member of a Pakistan-based terrorist group, Harkat-ul-Ansar, known for its attacks in Indian-controlled part of Kashmir. Once the hostages were exchanged, all three of the released terrorists, along with the hijackers, were allowed to flee by the Taliban regime. Within a year of his release, Azhar founded another deadly terrorist organization, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), in the Pakistani port city of Karachi.
After three days of talks in Turkey, representatives from Washington and Ankara failed to reach agreement on the terms of a proposed safe zone in northeastern Syria. The two sides, treaty allies since 1952, share such widely divergent interests in Syria that compromise appears exceedingly difficult, if not impossible. The reasons for these divergent interests are often described as an outcome of a half-hearted American intervention in Syria, where a small and limited military operation to oust the Islamic State resulted in a military partnership with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) affiliate in Syria, the Peoples’ Protection Unites (YPG). The YPG is the core component of the U.S.-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the militia that Washington depends on to hold the territory taken from Islamic State. This is only half the story and does not capture the nuance of the slow and painful deterioration of Turkish-American relations.
As leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un’s track record in international relations has been virtually unprecedented. On April 25, he met with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok, the Russian port city close to North Korea. He’s met with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in twice, and, of course, U.S. President Donald Trump twice as well. China’s leader Xi Jinping and Kim have met four times since March 2018.
North Korea moved back into the headlines last week when its leader, Kim Jong-un, travelled to Vladivostok to meet Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. At the same time, the possibility of a third Kim-Trump meeting keeps simmering in Washington—for the simple reason that Mr. Trump keeps saying that he wants it. Despite these developments, it is sobering to note that intensive U.S. diplomatic efforts dating from the 1980s have produced essentially no progress on the core issue—North Korea’s determination to build a nuclear arsenal and missiles that can deliver a nuclear strike, not just on South Korea or Japan, but on the U.S. as well. For over three decades, Washington has demanded that Pyongyang agree, under pressure of stringent international sanctions, to dismantle its nuclear and missile capabilities. It has not happened, and it may be time to rethink fundamental U.S. goals and strategy concerning North Korea.
The death toll from the Easter Sunday bombings in and near Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, has exceeded 300 and keeps rising. In the meanwhile, the suicide bombers have at least partially accomplished one of their principal goals: to sow discord between the Muslim and Christian communities of Sri Lanka. This particular fault line had not previously existed in this poly-ethnic country. Instead, the principal ethnic cleavage had pitted the Sinhala majority (nearly 75 percent of the population) against the Tamil minority (a little more than 12 percent of the population) and had culminated in a sanguinary civil war between 1983 and 2009.
South Korean foreign policy has understandably been focused on deterring acts of aggression by North Korea for the last 66 years. After all, the two Korean neighbors are technically still at war, though an armistice halted the major fighting between them in 1953. But if South Korea’s decade-long ambition to turn its defense industry into an export powerhouse is fully realized, a new set of foreign policy challenges could be thrust upon Seoul as other countries, particularly China, may come to see South Korean arms exports as running counter to their national interests. Already, the South Korean defense industry’s latest sales of fighters and frigates have turned heads.
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In February 2019, the Government of Georgia hit a new low when news of its “attack” on TBC Bank, one of the biggest banks in the country, became public. The National Bank of Georgia and the Prosecutor’s Office confronted TBC Bank, a member of FTSE 250 and one of the most successful business projects in Georgia since its independence, and its founder Mamuka Khazaradze. Khazaradze is also a founder of the Anaklia Development Consortium, which is constructing the first deep sea port in Georgia. The achievements of the TBC group epitomize the success of market economy in post-Communist Georgia. However, the government accuses the bank of financial misconduct and possible money laundering.
At the time of writing, things appear to look bleak from Pyongyang’s vantage point. Though North Korea is hypothetically involved in negotiations with South Korea and the U.S. at the same time, the talks with the U.S. are the most important at the moment. After all, as former UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon acknowledged the other day, without progress between the U.S. and North Korea, not much can happen in practice between South and North Korea. Both countries’ governments want to get to work on economic exchanges, but none of that can happen until the U.S. and North Korea exit their current stalemate. As of now, there seems to be little in terms of a consistent policy trajectory for either party. Still, both—that is, Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump—want to keep talking.