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First 100 days of the South Korean President – Moon Jae-in

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The President of South Korea (ROK) Moon Jae-in officially took up his duties on May 10. In the Republic of Korea, the presidential term is five years. But already in the first 100 days, President Moon made it clear to his citizens: changes are coming. In energy, health, and foreign policy. The reaction of the South Koreans did not wait: approval ratings beat records.

Country of Records: South Korea

In November 2016, former President Pak Kin He, now in custody on charges of bribery and abuse of power, beat an anti-record popularity. The approval rating of its activities fell to a negligible 5%. And in one of the regions of the country, the indicator was fixed at 0%.

Against this background, an unconditional triumphant is the new president – a representative of the Liberal Democratic Party. His approval rating ranged from 75 to 85%. And in the age group from 30 to 40 years, the rating reached and 90% – an absolute record in the history of independent South Korea.

The country’s largest media explain the unprecedented popularity of the pendulum effect. Against the backdrop of corruption-ridden Park Geun-hye, who did not like communication with the press and listened to her sectarian girlfriend, liberal, optimistic and unconcerned, Moon Jae-in seemed to South Koreans almost ideal candidate for the post of head of state. This point of view was not shared except that one-party member’s Park Geun-hye. As he said the chairwoman of the Democratic Party Chu Mi E, the administration of the new president is “the highest and most stable level of approval” in the country’s history.

Reforms in South Korea

The previous two presidents of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Park Geun-hye and Li Myung-bak – represented the interests of the largest conservative party in the country. The liberal Moon Zhe Ying who came to replace them practically from the first day began to implement complex reforms.

Under the new president’s vision were: tax policy, education, the judicial system, the labor market, the national health system and gender policy. Moon promised to create almost a million new jobs in the public sector (of which 110,000 – in 2017), and raise the minimum wage. Already in July, the National Assembly approved a project valued at $ 9.8 billion and aimed at creating 2.5 thousand jobs. The president also turned to nuclear energy: no new nuclear reactor for nuclear power plants will be built, he said. Moon promised, “to open the door to the post-nuclear era.”

Mun Zhe Ying announced the launch next year of a massive healthcare reform, which the national media has already called “Moon Care” just like Obamacare. The opposition, meanwhile, complains that the South Korean budget may not be able to implement these reforms.

One of the high-ranking members of the now oppositional Korean Free Party (CPC) recalled that $ 156 billion would be needed to carry out reforms of Mun Zhe In, but the president “did not specify where the financial resources will come from.”

At the same time, one of the reforms proposed by the president did not require huge financial investments, but it struck heavily on the positions of the already weakened SEC. In July the structure of the special service was restructured in such a way as to minimize its influence on the domestic policy of the country. Earlier, the special service was accused of manipulating public opinion in favor of conservatives.

In addition, Moon closed the program, which in 2018 envisaged the publication of school textbooks on the history of state structures, launched by Pak Kun Hye. The South Korean media writes that thanks to this program, the ex-president could rewrite history and present his father – Pak Jung He – in a more favorable light. Park Chung-hee led the country for 16 years and is distinguished by his tough style of management and political repression.

South Korean Relations with the DPRK (North Korea)

During his election campaign, Mun Zhe Ying said he was ready to resume the dialogue with Pyongyang, and his main task was to establish peace on the Korean peninsula. Again, he turned to this task during a press conference on the first 100 days at his post.

Moon Jae-in promised that there will never be a war on the peninsula. “Dialogue must begin anew, but one can not be impatient, and it takes time and effort to overcome decades of broken ties,” the president said. According to the president, the approach to the DPRK should be more flexible, and the preconceptions in relations with Pyongyang, related to the complete curtailment of the nuclear missile program, will not work.

This approach of Moon Jae-in, whose parents fled from the DPRK to the ROK during the Korean War, is at odds with the approach of US President Donald Trump. He  promised Pyongyang to meet any provocation “with fire and fury, which the world has never seen.”

A more radical and militant approach to Pyongyang, meanwhile, is being divided by oppositionists in the Republic of Korea. However, to listen to these statements, Moon Zhe Inu was recently helped by Pyongyang himself. After the July launch of the DPRK intercontinental ballistic missile, the president announced the deployment in the near future of additional installations of the US missile defense system THAAD. But even two months ago, South Korea suspended the deployment of these systems to conduct a full-fledged environmental review, which may be delayed for at least several months.

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Africa emerges as a new battle ground for India and China for trade, commerce war

India sees this initiative as an effort by China to flex its economic muscle and extend the reach of its influence. “However, India’s engagement with Africa is not limited to trade and commerce.

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Post the border clashes, India and China are striving to create a robust influence in Africa through humanitarian aid and investments. However, with the countries adopting different outreach strategies, analysts suggest that competition between India and China is unnecessary as there is room for both to make their presence felt. 

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According to Maria Siow, a China-based journalist and analyst, India’s renewed focus on Africa is a result of China’s growing footprint on the continent, not just in terms of trade and commerce, but also Beijing’s rising maritime interests.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative aims at connecting Asia with Africa and Europe through land and maritime routes which would enable regional integration and growth in trade and commerce.

Recently, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said during a press conference that a total of 44 African countries and the African Union Commission have signed cooperation documents with China on the Belt and Road initiative.

India can ‘no longer’ choke China at the Strait Of Malacca as Beijing finds solution

“It is a vote of confidence in China-Africa cooperation from our African brothers,” he added.

India sees this initiative as an effort by China to flex its economic muscle and extend the reach of its influence. “However, India’s engagement with Africa is not limited to trade and commerce.

The Indian diaspora, for instance, has been a major force in several African nations’ pursuit of prosperity and political participation,” said Swaran Singh, a professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University’s School of International Studies.

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India and China stand far apart in terms of the size of their economies. India’s US$2.7 trillion versus China’s US$14 trillion which acts as a roadblock for New Delhi to make further inroads in African nations.

According to United Nations trade data, 39 African countries imported more than US$71 billion worth of goods from China in 2017 and only US$21 billion from India.

“African governments are therefore aware that in spite of their rapprochement with India, China remains the most important – and at the government level, the most trusted – development and investment partner on the continent,” said Lin Minwang, the deputy director of Fudan University’s Institute for South Asian Studies.

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Nevertheless, India has not made huge loans to African countries and thus avoided being a major part of the serious debt problems facing by many African countries today.

However, it is expected that India’s investment in Africa will become more valuable especially in Africa’s health care and pharmaceutical sectors. Sizeable investments have already been made in oil and gas, mining, banking, pharma, textiles and other sectors in African countries under the strategic initiative, “Focus Africa” by the Government of India launched in 2002.

Zhang Yongpeng, a senior research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of West Asian and African Studies noted that even though India posed a challenge to China’s strategy in Africa, for instance in bidding for commercial projects, the economic threats were not daunting for now.

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African nations are unwilling to choose between China and India because of the accruing benefits and investments from both nations. Also, the African governments are avoiding being dragged in conflicts, especially during the ongoing trade and diplomatic tensions between the US and China and the border tensions between India and China.

“India tends to have largely positive perceptions as a fellow Global South democracy. China can sometimes be more controversial, for example, due to the recent ill-treatment of Africans in Guangzhou,” stated Cobus van Staden, a researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs.

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India refuses to review RCEP decision over China’s border hostility – Reports

Last year, India backed out of the RCEP agreement citing its negative effects on “farmers, MSMEs and dairy sector”. “The present form of the RCEP Agreement does not fully reflect the basic spirit and the agreed guiding principles of RCEP.

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India is firm on the decision to not become a member of the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership). The Modi government is reportedly “not reviewing” its decision on RCEP due to the presence of China as a member.

According to the sources, India has decided it won’t join any trade agreement including RCEP where China is a member as matters have turned worse for India, especially after the border stand-off with China.

Last year, India backed out of the RCEP agreement citing its negative effects on “farmers, MSMEs and dairy sector”. “The present form of the RCEP Agreement does not fully reflect the basic spirit and the agreed guiding principles of RCEP.

It also does not address satisfactorily India’s outstanding issues and concerns. In such a situation, it is not possible for India to join the RCEP Agreement,” PM Modi had stated at RCEP summit in Bangkok. The summit included China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and the 10-nation ASEAN grouping.

“There is no question to join the pact now that the prime minister has given a clarion call to a self-reliant or ‘atmanirbhar’ (self-reliant) India,” said an official who refused to be identified. The comments came after Thailand said all member countries have decided to sign the trade pact by the end of 2020 without India, and the deal may come into force by the middle of next year.

According to Chinese state mouthpiece, Global Times (GT), this is a method of venting of irrational emotions after a recent deadly border conflict in the Galwan Valley.

“India’s years of hesitation toward the RCEP are essentially due to the country’s weak manufacturing sector,” it said. “After the deadly border conflict in June, India’s diplomacy has entered an irrational state of anger.

It is expanding its emotional approach to many other aspects of relations. Using border tensions with China as an excuse for its latest RCEP rejection is just another example. If India continues this irrational approach, it would not only harm regional interests but would not benefit India’s own long-term interests,” it added.

It further criticised the Indian media for calling RCEP as “Chinese-dominated” and “Chinese-backed” trade deal.

Despite China’s belligerence, no other country has shown any hesitation for signing the RCEP agreement. “For countries such as Australia, South Korea, Japan and New Zealand it will be difficult to have inner coherence between geopolitics and trade,” said Rajiv Bhatia, a veteran diplomat.

Vietnam, which is now the ASEAN chair has said that it will continue to urge India to join the RCEP “whenever it feels comfortable”.

Amid soaring tensions in the South China Sea when the Chinese ship attacked and sank a Vietnamese boat near the Paracel Islands, it is still going to go ahead with the RCEP deal. Similarly, Australia, which has blamed China for the origins of Covid-19 and its growing military aggression, also seems clear about joining the RCEP.

China’s advice to India is that while facing a “more powerful neighbour”, it is imperative for India to properly assess its situation and rationally reduce its rivalry toward China to develop favourable economic and diplomatic strategies, rather than “irrationally heating up nationalism and blaming China when it encounters unsatisfactory situations”.

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India can ‘no longer’ choke China at the Strait Of Malacca as Beijing finds solution

The Strait of Malacca is a strategic waterway between Indonesia and Malaysia through which the majority of Chinese imports pass. The narrow waterway also makes the perfect chokepoint from the perspective of India, and should tension between Beijing and New Delhi rise, the Malacca Strait can be blocked easily by India. 

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Could the advantage that India enjoys over China due to the Strait of Malacca be coming to an end? Does China have a way to tackle the Indian plans of chocking Beijing at the Malacca Straits – the strategic waterway, in case of a war?

Africa emerges as a new battle ground for India and China for trade, commerce war

India’s position at the mouth of the Malacca Strait has created panic amongst Chinese officials as they try to find an alternative route, writes the Forbes.

The Strait of Malacca is a strategic waterway between Indonesia and Malaysia through which the majority of Chinese imports pass. The narrow waterway also makes the perfect chokepoint from the perspective of India, and should tension between Beijing and New Delhi rise, the Malacca Strait can be blocked easily by India.

India’s natural position in the Indian Ocean, with basing capabilities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands at the mouth of the strait, would allow its navy to cut it off in the event of a crisis or war with China.

Indian Military Base In Sabang, Indonesia Can Strangle China At The Strait of Malacca

Keeping in mind the recent flare-up between India and China, Larry Bond, renowned naval author and creator of the Harpoon war game series, says that if India wanted to block trade with China, all it has to do is its park ships at the mouth of the Malacca Strait.

The vast majority of China’s oil imports, from the Persian Gulf, Venezuela and Angola, pass by this route. Due to the strategic importance of the waterway, there is fear amongst Chinese officials that India could block the Malacca Strait in case of war.

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Experts at EurAsian Times believe that the strategic importance of the Malacca Strait and the advantage it gives to India will likely reduce over time as Beijing find alternative routes.

Bypassing the Malacca Strait

The fact India enjoys a strategic advantage over China because of the Malacca Strait has forced Beijing to explore other options and find ways around the waterway.

Why Is India Buying More Russian Jets Instead Of ‘Highly-Competent’ Rafale Aircraft?

One such option is Gwadar Port in Pakistan. As part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Beijing has developed the port in Gwadar so that goods unloaded there will be shipped overland to China.

On June 8 the Pakistani government approved a $7.2bn upgrade to a railway which will connect Gwadar to Kashgar, China. The port is not yet operating at capacity, but the direction seems clear.

Kashmir will get more affected than Tibet in India, China clash – British Author

While Gwadar is still susceptible to an attack by the Indian Air Force (IAF), it adds political and military risks as it is in a third country’s territory. The Indian Navy could try and block this port but it would require ships to move away from the Malacca Strait.

The other option Beijing is exploring is Northern Sea Route in the Arctic which could create a ‘Polar Silk Road.’ The importance of this is underlined by China’s 2018 Arctic policy. It asserts, “Geographically, China is a “Near-Arctic State”, one of the continental States that are closest to the Arctic Circle.”

Instigated by China, Sri Lanka could end port deal with India?

The policy statement goes on to say, “China hopes to work with all parties to build a “Polar Silk Road” through developing the Arctic shipping routes.”

Due to accelerated global warming, ice sheets are receding, thus making it possible for ships to travel via this route. Having sent its first ship through the region in 2013, Beijing is now investing in port infrastructure in the Arctic which connects to Europe.

China is also investing in designing ice breakers, vessels that would ease navigation through the Arctic. With help from Finnish Aker Arctic, China launched its first locally built ice breaker the Xue Long 2 in 2018.

India refuses to review RCEP decision over China’s border hostility – Reports

Apart from exploring new waterways and developing strategic ports, Beijing is developing a land route directly to Europe, as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), mainly as a way to export goods.

Thousands of trains are transversing across Asia in recent times, the modern-day version of the ancient Silk Road. Land routes are one way China can reduce the criticality of Chinese sea routes.

The strategic importance of the Strait of Malacca to China will lessen over a period of time. India will still be in a position to throttle Chinese supply lines there, but it will not have the same impact that it once had.

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