Japan and South Korea dig in. Friday’s meeting between Japanese and South Korean officials to sort out trade issues didn’t go very well. Tokyo and Seoul can’t even agree on what actually happened. South Korean President Moon Jae-in characterized Japan’s behavior as a “grave challenge,” while South Korean business owners protested in Seoul earlier today, calling for boycotts of Japanese consumer goods. And though the World Trade Organization said it would hear South Korea’s grievances with Japan later this month, Yonhap reported that Japan was considering expanding its export restrictions beyond high tech materials to a wider range of areas, possibly as soon as July 24. The Korea Economic Research Institute, a private think tank, estimates that current restrictions would lead to a 2.2 percent drop in South Korea’s gross domestic product. For more on what is driving this conflict, check Phillip Orchard’s excellent article from last week.
Turkish war preparations. Turkey marked the third anniversary of a failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today amid more significant developments. Bloomberg reported that the U.S. government has prepared a range of sanctions against Turkey for its acquisition of Russian S-400 air defense systems and that the only thing stopping Washington from announcing the sanctions today was a desire to avoid inflaming Turkish suspicion that the U.S. was behind the coup attempt. The sanctions, however, also require U.S. President Donald Trump’s final approval – something Erdogan urged Trump over the weekend to withhold.
Meanwhile, Turkey is apparently amassing military forces on the border with Syria – more than it ordinarily does. A July 12 Haberturk report indicated that Turkey had suspended vacations and transfers for troops in southeastern Turkey for three months and was deploying additional armor, artillery and soldiers to the border. Al-Masdar, the generally pro-Syrian news agency, reported today that Syrian Kurdish forces have deployed reinforcements to the Syria-Turkey border crossing at Ras al-Ayn.
Guatemala says no. Guatemala announced that it would postpone President Jimmy Morales’ trip to the United States until the Guatemalan Constitutional Court ruled on legal challenges to a proposed deal that would make Guatemala a “safe third country” – i.e., that would require Guatemala to give asylum to migrants destined for the U.S. upon entering its territory. The U.S. wants a deal quickly because most U.S.-bound migrants from Honduras and El Salvador pass through Guatemala on their way to the United States. (The government claims it never even considered signing such an agreement with the U.S.) To that end, the U.S. could leverage its overwhelming trade disparity with the small Central American country, having already cut off foreign aid in June for failing, in its opinion, to adequately reduce the flow of immigrants.
Sudan’s strife unresolved. Sudan’s political opposition and the Sudanese military were all set to ratify the Khartoum Agreement, which would have ended to the country’s most recent bout of political violence, until the meeting was postponed indefinitely on Saturday night. The deadlock seems to center on an immunity clause that would protect all members of the “sovereign council,” which has de facto ruled Sudan since Omar al-Bashir’s ouster, from any criminal proceedings. Some Rapid Support Forces – groups nominally aligned with the military and composed largely of the feared janjaweed militias that were responsible for the massacres in Darfur – said they were gradually withdrawing from the Sudanese capital, but others reportedly shot and killed at least one protester in the southeastern state of Sennar yesterday.
- Protests continued in Hong Kong this weekend. The Financial Times reported that Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam offered to resign from her post on several occasions in recent weeks – and that Beijing refused each time.
- Roughly 1,000 people protested in Moscow yesterday over an electoral commission decision that kept several opposition candidates off the ballot.
- Qatar opened its newest and largest coast guard base yesterday.
- The Chinese government said it would sever business ties with all U.S. firms linked to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
- Uzbekistan will host the next round of Taliban-Afghan peace talks at some point in the next month.
- The U.S. granted Iran’s foreign minister a visa to attend a United Nations meeting in New York. Last week, Washington said it would hold off on imposing previously announced sanctions against the minister.
- China released statistics showing that GDP growth for the second quarter slowed to 6.2 percent.
- Tajikistan’s first Islamic bank opened.