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Is Kim-Jong-Un Dead? Reports Suggest Kim Could Be In A Vegetative State

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Is Kim-Jong-Un dead? Is the North Korean dictator – Kim-Jong-un who did not blink an eye during his confrontational meeting with US President Donald Trump still alive? 

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Japanese media, citing the medical team treating North Korean leader Kim Jong-un claim that the North Korean leader could be in a vegetative state.

The Chinese delegation including a senior member of the Chinese Communist party’s international liaison department sent a team to North Korea including medical experts to check on Kim Jong-un, according to three people familiar with the situation. The trip by the Chinese doctors and officials comes amid conflicting reports about the health of the North Korean ruler.

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What triggered the speculation behind Kim’s health was his non-appearance at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, a place he visits every year on April 15 to mark the birthday of his grandfather, the founder of the dynastic regime. No reporting by state media on the recent missile test launches featuring Kim Jong-un further fueled speculations.

These rumours gained traction when Daily NK, a South Korea-based online publication, and CNN, relying on anonymous sources inside the country, reported that the supreme leader’s health was in ‘grave danger’ following a heart surgery on April 12.

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The speculations and rumours spread like wildfire throughout the globe. South Korea officials questioned the accuracy of the reports about Kim Jong-un being in ‘danger’ and Kang Min-Seok, a spokesman for President Moon Jae-in, said South Korea “has so far detected no special signs inside North Korea,” writes Choe Sang-Hun for the New York Times.

US national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said that the US was “closely monitoring” reports regarding Kim’s health. “They’re parsimonious with the information that they provide about many things, including the health of Kim Jong Un. So we’re monitoring those developments closely,” he told Fox & Friends on Tuesday.

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US President Donald Trump also spoke about the reports and said the US did not know if the reports were accurate or not. “We don’t know, we don’t know,” Mr Trump said, before adding that he had a “very good relationship” with Kim Jong-un. “I can only say this, I wish him well.”

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, when asked about Kim’s health on Fox News after Trump spoke, said: “I don’t have anything I can share with you tonight, but the American people should know we’re watching the situation very keenly.”

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North Korea also tried to quash the rumours. On Tuesday, its official news agency said Mr Kim had sent birthday gifts to exemplary workers and a birthday letter to the Cuban president on Monday. The state media last reported on Kim’s whereabouts when he presided over a meeting on 11 April.

The health of Kim Jong-un has always been of interest to western analysts but remains a closely guarded secret by the North Korea media. This is not the first time that the leader of the ‘hermit kingdom’ has disappeared.

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In 2014, he was missing for more than a month. North Korean state TV later showed him walking with a limp. It neighbouring South Korean intelligence officials said that Kim had a cyst removed from his ankle and that his ankle trouble could return.

The Kim dynasty had ruled ‘democratic’ North since 1948 and over the years members of the family including Kim-II Sung and Kim Jong-il reportedly suffered from various ailments, like diabetes, and died of heart failure. The third-generation Kim is also a heavy smoker, suffers from obesity and cardiovascular diseases.

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Kim-Jong-un Dead?

Regardless of the accuracy of the reports and Hong Kong Satellite Television claims that Kim-Jong-un is dead, a vital question must be raised. Who gets to rule North Korea if Mr Kim dies?

Political scientists and geopolitical analysts have pondered on this question ever since Kim Jong-un came into power. Most believe that Kim’s sister, Kim Jo Yong, would replacement for her brother.

Cheong Seong-chang, an at Sejong Institute in South Korea, spoke about Ms Kim Yong in an interview with Associated Press. He said that the possibility of the sister inheriting the throne is “more than 90%.” He also spoke about her ‘’royal blood’’ and he noted, and “North Korea is like a dynasty.’’

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Ms Yong is very well known both inside and outside North Korea. She was part of the team and No.2 in command of the historic meeting between the USA and North Korea aimed at denuclearization. She has secured her position as the public face of North Korea, as her brother’s spokesman, chief of staff and national security adviser.

Much like her family, Ms Yong does not mince her words and she issued a statement attacking South Korea’s presidential office and calling it an “imbecile.”

But Lee Byong-Chol, a North Korea expert at Kyungnam University’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies in Seoul, said the North’s deeply patriarchal elites would find it hard to accept a young, inexperienced female leader.

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Apart from her sister, other possible replacements include Choe Ryong-Hae, the current No. 2 in the government hierarchy. Kim Jong Chol is also an option given his gender and his ‘’royal blood’’, but the younger Kim has no interest in politics or governance. Kim’s offsprings are out of the question at the moment given his young age and the secrecy around the gender of his kids.

The demise of Kim-Jong-un could see a power struggle in the country. As history has shown, a change in leadership is often followed by flexing military muscles via testing of nukes, purges of top generals or potential enemies and an all-out effort to consolidate power.

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With North Korea armed to its teeth and now nuclear-capable, a change in leadership could prove to be catastrophic for the Korean Peninsula. We could possibly see another war between the two Koreas, refugees flocking to bordering China and misuse of weapons of mass destruction.

It will be interesting to see how the world reacts, especially the US, who has invested a lot of time and effort under the Trump administration to end North Korean nuclear weapon proliferation and lift economic sanctions in return.

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“They’ve got to denuclearize. We’ve got to do so in a way that we can verify that’s true no matter who is leading North Korea,” Mike Pompeo said recently. For America, denuclearization remains the central theme regardless of who runs North Korea.

Armaan Srivastava, New Delhi

Asia Pacific

India-China Economic Romance Cannot End With A Mere Border Clash – Chinese Experts

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India and China have been at each other’s throat for more than a month now. Aside from the military confrontation in Ladakh, India has also moved to disengage from China economically.

While the move has got the support from the majority of Indians, Cui Hui’ao of the China Global Television Network (CGTN) writes that disengaging from China might not be a choice for India and that economic de-coupling is driven politically by Narendra Modi.

As reported by Eurasian Times consistently during last month, the feud between India and China has been a rollercoaster ride. From military buildup, deadly clashes to de-escalation and eventual withdrawal, the clash of the two Asiatic giants has seen it all.

Cui writes that apart from the military confrontation, India has retaliated in the economic sphere, referring to the decision by the Indian government to ban 59 Chinese application including TikTok, WeChat and ShareIt and the call to boycott Chinese products.

The journalist at CGTN writes that decoupling from China may be easier said than done for India. He says that India is not a manufacturing powerhouse, so in terms of bilateral trade, it actually buys much more from China than the other way around.

Cui analyses trade data to support the fact that New Delhi will find it difficult to reduce its dependence on Chinese imports. Between April 2019 and March 2020, India imported over 65 billion U.S. dollars’ worth of goods from China.

Cui is of the opinion that the coronavirus pandemic has hit the Indian economy hard and in fact, the disengagement is driven by politics rather than economics. He finds it difficult to accept that India’s disengagement from China would take place at a time when the Indian economy is projected to contract by 4.5% according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Economic Disengagement Driven Politically 

Speaking to Cui, Cheng Xizhong, a visiting professor from Southwest University of Political Science and Law, says that the decision to de-couple from China economically is because of the domestic pressure on Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi.

‘’Since his second term began yet Indian economy is a mess. He has to find a way to shift the public attention elsewhere,” he said.

The author agrees with the point made by Cheng Xizhong and writes that pressure on the Indian PM Modi comes from multiple fronts, including his own supporters, businesses, and farmers union. But this time, the nationalistic voice is even louder.

Other experts interviewed by Chui agree that New Delhi would benefit more if it partnered with Beijing. Professor Cheng, a former Chinese military diplomat in South Asia, said that since India started its opening-up in the 1990s, its economic growth has been crippled by lack of high-quality infrastructure and it would wiser if India and China work together.

Similar views are shared by Indian economist Biswajit Dhar, who says that India’s decision to start producing domestically has to be strategic and it cannot take the decision to produce everything.”

While India and China disengage at the battlefront in Ladakh, the Indian government is looking for solutions to reduce its dependency on Chinese imports. PM Modi has encouraged all Indians to become self-reliant (Aatmanirbhar) by producing and purchasing indigenous goods and boost the Indian economy.

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US-China ties to worsen as Trump set to block all Chinese claims in South China Sea

Ties between US and China could dramatically worsen over the South China Sea after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington now regards virtually all Chinese maritime claims outside its internationally recognised waters to be illegitimate. 

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Ties between the US and China are set to further deteriorate over the South China Sea as the Trump administration is set to outrightly reject almost all of Chinese maritime claims in the contentious waterbody.

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The Trump government presented the decision as an endeavour to restrain China’s increasing belligerence in the region with a commitment to recognising international law. This move in the South China Sea will further enrage the Chinese, who are already countering against various US sanctions and other penalties.

Previously, US policy had been to insist that maritime spats between China and its smaller neighbours be settled peacefully through UN-backed arbitration.

But in a statement released on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington now regards virtually all Chinese maritime claims outside its internationally recognised waters to be illegitimate.

“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire,” Pompeo said. “America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law. We stand with the international community in defence of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and reject any push to impose ‘might makes right’ in the South China Sea or the wider region.”

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Although the US will continue to remain impartial in territorial conflicts, the announcement means Washington is now directly supporting Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, all of which oppose Chinese declarations of sovereignty over maritime areas surrounding disputed islands, reefs and shoals.

“There are clear cases where [China] is claiming sovereignty over areas that no country can lawfully claim,” the State Department said in a fact sheet that accompanied the statement.

The announcement was released a day after the fourth anniversary of a binding decision by an arbitration panel in favour of the Philippines that discarded Chinese maritime claims around the Spratly Islands and neighbouring reefs and shoals.

China has declined to recognise that ruling, rejected it as a “sham” and withdrew from the arbitration proceedings. It has continued to oppose the decision with aggressive actions that have brought it into territorial disputes with Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia in recent years.

However, as a result, the administration said China has no valid maritime claims to the fish- and potentially energy-rich Scarborough Reef, Mischief Reef or Second Thomas Shoal. The US has repeatedly said areas regarded to be part of the Philippines are covered by a US-Philippines mutual defence treaty in the event of an attack on them.

In addition to reemphasising support for that decision, Pompeo said China cannot legitimately claim the James Shoal near Malaysia, waters surrounding the Vanguard Bank off Vietnam, the Luconia Shoals near Brunei and Natuna Besar off Indonesia. As such, Washington said it would regard any Chinese intimidation of fishing vessels or oil exploration in those areas as unlawful.

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Asia Pacific

US-China tensions: China slaps counter sanctions on US officials over Uighur rights

Earlier, US sanctioned member of Chinese Communist Party, 3 other officials over human rights abuses of Uighurs in Xinjiang

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Tensions between the US and China continue to rise after China, in a tit-for-tat move, announced sanctions on US lawmakers and an envoy over the issue of Uighur rights in Xinjiang.

China’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Beijing sanctioned officials at US’ China Commission; Sam Brownback, Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith, daily Global Times reported.

China said on Friday it would take reciprocal measures against the US for sanctioning a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party and three other officials over human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region, home to Uighur Muslims.

“China has decided to take reciprocal measures against relevant US institutions and individuals that have behaved badly over Xinjiang,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian had said.

The US’ China Commission is a congressional-executive commission that was created to monitor human rights and rule of law in China which submits an annual report to the US president and the Congress.

The US Treasury Department on Thursday sanctioned Chen Quanguo, Communist Party Secretary of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

Chen was appointed to the region in 2016, according to the US statement, with a “notorious history of intensifying security operations” in the Tibetan autonomous region to tighten control over the Tibetan ethnic minorities.

The senior government official is also known as the “architect” of mass detention camps in Xinjiang. The sanctions designations are under the Global Magnitsky Act passed by the US Congress in 2016.

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