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Trump visits Japan, North Korea resumes missile testing

US President Donald Trump travelled to Japan to meet with Prime Minister Shino Abe for a four day visit which started on Saturday. On the agenda will be the new US-Japan trade deal, the new raising in tension with North Korea.

The US-North Korea deal seems to be back in the improbable category even though Trump has claimed that there is still a chance for a deal. North Korea on the other hand has returned to testing its missile which is a further indication of a no deal situation.

Japan is the US’s closest Asian partner with military, technology and financial ties link the two countries since the Second World War, North Korea’s missile test is very worrisome for Japan due its proximity, while Trump and South Korea have done played the recent aggressions by not calling out Kim Jong-un.

Trump’s visit to Japan also serves as good getaway from Washington as there is a push by certain democrats to have him impeached according to CNN.com. With the trade war with China escalating and no deal with North Korea, Japan could be a good place for Trump to score and easy win in Asia.

By Mokgethi Mtezuka

Russia stops all cooperation with NATO

Photo: NATO

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Alexander Grushko said in an interview that Russia has stopped all association with NATO—North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance between 29 North American and European countries. The organization implements the North Atlantic Treaty that was signed on 4 April 1949.

Related: BRICS VS NATO: The differences and how they compare

NATO suspended military and civilian cooperation with Russia in 2014 over the crisis in Ukraine. Russia, in February 2014 had several military attacks into the Ukrainian territory – after the fall of the then Ukraine President, Viktor Yanukovych—Russian soldiers in the absence of insignias took charge of military positions and took control of infrastructure within the Ukrainian territory of Crimea.

Grushko told the state ran media agency, RIA Novosti news agency that “NATO has itself abandoned a positive agenda in its relations with Russia. It doesn’t exist,” as reported by The Moscow Times.

The interview came a day after US military officers said that the lack of communication between the US and US could lead to a nuclear war by “mistake or miscalculation”. The former permanent Russia NATO representative between the years 2012 and 2018 warned NATO against military conflict with Russia.

Related: Trump to designate Brazil as a “Major Non-NATO ally”

 

By: Kgothatso Nkanyane

Additional reporting: The Moscow Times

 

New US sanction on Russia to take hold on 27 August

More sanctions from the US will be placed on Russia, coming in to effect on the 27 August. The new batch of sanctions comes in the wake of the Skripal poisoning and Russia alleged involvement.

The Skripal poisoning which took place in March in the United Kingdom, saw former Russian Spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter almost being killed by an illegal chemical weapon.

Russian intelligence agencies are being accused of orchestrating the attempted murder of the Skripals who now reside in the UK. Russian authorities have maintained that there is zero evidence linking Russia or Russian agents to the poisoning.

The sanctions which were originally set to be active on 22 August were pushed out to the 27th , due to the notification for publishing elapsing.

The US State Department has said that sanctioning is indeed due to Russia for using chemical or biological weapons and violating international law.

The Russian foreign ministry is also planning it’s own retaliatory sanctions, creating a blacklist of US businesses and individuals. 

Source: rt.com

China’s cyber-security may be used as weapon as Trade War tensions escalate

The quickly soaring relations between China and the United States has resulted in both countries looking for as much leverage as they can find. For the USA it’s relying on its own economic strength to protect against any serve suffering, and for China it seems as its internet firewall may be a new weapon in the escalating trade battles.

According to Bloomberg.com, the Chinese online population is measured at 731 million people, which could be very lucrative to USA tech companies if they had access. The reason for the limited or completely restricted access is due to the Great Chinese Firewall or the rules, standards, legislature and technologies which governs the Chinese’ online activities and accessibility.

The firewall for example forbids access to popular US sites like YouTube, Google, Facebook, Twitter and US media outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post. The firewall could be China’s no-so-obvious weapon against US tariffs, the Chinese government could easily add more US tech companies to the list of restrictive access.

China does this by adding new standards to its firewall, which usually starts as recommendations but are likely to be approved by the government. Later on these standards can become a part of China’s legal framework. These new Chinese standards can increase the financial costs of foreign companies, slow the pace of operating in China and sometimes turn firms against doing business in China.

The biggest problem the US may face in the long term is that China’s use of internet standards may not end, even if the US should over turn its tariff policy, these standards could actually become Chinese law and the official way of doing business in China.

By Mokgethi Mtezuka’

US-China trade war boosts demand for Brazilian soy

The ever-increasing US-China trade war has resulted in China cutting down on American Soybeans which has provided an opportunity for Brazil to fill in the gap. Added with the stagnating sugar-market, Brazilian farmers have an incentive to now farm more soybeans.

Many Brazilian farmers are now benefiting from America’s loss. Chinese buyers are choosing Brazilian soy as a replacement for US soy, while at the same time Brazil is charging a premium price for its produce. The change in soy suppliers for China may have long term consequences for the USA in future, because even if the trade tensions calm down, that doesn’t mean China will once again choose US soy as its preferred option.

China’s demand for soy has even changed Brazil’s farming patterns, as many farmers have already harvested and replanted soybeans or prefer growing soybeans in anticipation of Chinese demand. Soy is also an instrumental crop for feeding farm animals, which therefore means as the demand for meat by China grows, so does the demand for soybeans.

In 2017 alone, Brazil supplied China with 53.8 million tons of soybeans, almost half of soybeans produced that year. With those numbers expected to increase this year to new highs because of the added demand.

China’s retaliation tariffs on the US and US farmers hasn’t swayed Donald Trump supporters. Many of these supporters are farmers hurting from the trade war, but choose to remain loyal to Trump and the Republican party at this time. This may change as soy harvest begins in October, and many American farmers are hoping trade tensions will come to a negotiated settlement by then.

Source: Reuters.com

How U.S-China Trade War impacts on SA and emerging markets

The first shot of the China – US went off without much of a reaction, however, the tension has now escalated raising questions of possible impact of the trade-war on South Africa and other emerging markets. Trade-wars have a history of hitting the most vulnerable markets, SA included.

The trade-war is bound to put pressure on emerging economies and currencies leading to inflations. The effects of the trade-war are already in place as emerging markets face economic pressures. According to Merriam Isa on Fin24, “the real trade war bloodbath took place in the second-to-last week of June, with emerging market currencies taking a beating worldwide – including the rand which weakened nearly to R14 a dollar from a peak earlier this year at R11.50.”

The trade war has led to oil prices increasing, and it has been noted that there is a causality between movement of the rand and oil prices – this has been the case since 1990.  South Africa will not be as affected, in comparison to other emerging markets.

South Africa depends on trade for its growth, hence changes in trade conditions could have a negative impact. South Africa exports steel and alluminium, which Trump has also imposed tariffs on. South Africa’s application for exemption from alluminium and steel tariff was rejected – it costs South African exporters an estimate of R3bn Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) on Fin24.

 

By: Kgothatso Nkanyane

Russian energy minister discusses sanctions and energy concerns with U.S. top officials

Russian Energy minister Aleksandr Novak confirmed that he discussed sanctions imposed by the U.S. on Russia and energy issues with his U.S. counterpart Rick Perry and U.S. treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin at a press briefing held in Washington.

Mnuchin issued stiff sanctions on Russian tycoons, defense and intelligence and other, and other targets in the last year. “We can’t sidestep these difficult questions, so of course we touched upon them during our contact”, said Novak.

These sanctions were meant to punish Russia for its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula and for allegedly interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

A state owned Russian news agency TASS said Novak particularly questioned threats of the sanctioning of Russia’s Nord Stream II gas-pipeline project, which is planned to run through the Baltic Sea and Germany. Mnuchin was authorised by the U.S. congress in a Russian-sanctions law passed last year to issue sanctions against the project built jointly by Russia’s Gazprom and western European energy companies.

Novak did not disclose what about the sanctions they will discuss – Mnuchin was quoted saying they will “keep in touch”.

Novak in past interviews said that the U.S should not be allowed to impose sanctions on Russia without the vote of the United Nations Security Council.

Source: rferl.org

Zimbabwe: Domestic Rivalries, US-China Competition Underlie Political Crisis

By Eric Draitser

On November 14, 2017 military forces in Zimbabwe took control of the streets, sequestered President Robert Mugabe in his residence, and publicly announced that the kinda sorta but not really coup was merely a clean-up operation intended to “target criminals.” While the claim does have some merit – Zimbabwe’s government, like those of nearly all nations in Africa and the Global South, grapples with endemic corruption – it remains difficult to ignore the long and sordid history of military coups in Africa, and then avoid the tendency to view the developments in Zimbabwe through the same lens.

Indeed, most media outlets quickly branded the operation a military coup d’etat.  However, a more critical analysis reveals that this episode is decidedly different from the countless coups that have taken place in the post-colonial history of Africa. In fact, a number of Zimbabwean commentators have made precisely that claim (see here andhere).

George Shire, a London-based political analyst, and veteran of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, incisively noted to Al-Jazeera, “The dominance of ZANU-PF [Zimbabwe’s ruling party since liberation] on the political landscape in Zimbabwe is not in question…What you see is really a leadership contest taking place – Zimbabwean style.” This point is critical in that, typically, a coup would overthrow not only the President, but an entire ruling party in favor of a military that either assumes control itself or installs some new power structure or party. In this case, however, the military has intervened to block one faction of the ruling party from assuming power in favor of another faction.

On November 14, 2017 military forces in Zimbabwe took control of the streets, sequestered President Robert Mugabe in his residence, and publicly announced that the kinda sorta but not really coup was merely a clean-up operation intended to “target criminals.” While the claim does have some merit – Zimbabwe’s government, like those of nearly all nations in Africa and the Global South, grapples with endemic corruption – it remains difficult to ignore the long and sordid history of military coups in Africa, and then avoid the tendency to view the developments in Zimbabwe through the same lens.

Indeed, most media outlets quickly branded the operation a military coup d’etat.  However, a more critical analysis reveals that this episode is decidedly different from the countless coups that have taken place in the post-colonial history of Africa. In fact, a number of Zimbabwean commentators have made precisely that claim (see here and here).

George Shire, a London-based political analyst, and veteran of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, incisively noted to Al-Jazeera, “The dominance ofC [Zimbabwe’s ruling party since liberation] on the political landscape in Zimbabwe is not in question…What you see is really a leadership contest taking place – Zimbabwean style.” This point is critical in that, typically, a coup would overthrow not only the President, but an entire ruling party in favor of a military that either assumes control itself or installs some new power structure or party. In this case, however, the military has intervened to block one faction of the ruling party from assuming power in favor of another faction.

The political turmoil in Zimbabwe is a product of both domestic factional rivalries and broader international political intrigue. Don’t let the corporate media impose its usual superficial narrative on the events in Zimbabwe; as with all things Africa, there’s so much more than meets the eye.

On November 14, 2017 military forces in Zimbabwe took control of the streets, sequestered President Robert Mugabe in his residence, and publicly announced that the kinda sorta but not really coup was merely a clean-up operation intended to “target criminals.” While the claim does have some merit – Zimbabwe’s government, like those of nearly all nations in Africa and the Global South, grapples with endemic corruption – it remains difficult to ignore the long and sordid history of military coups in Africa, and then avoid the tendency to view the developments in Zimbabwe through the same lens.

Indeed, most media outlets quickly branded the operation a military coup d’etat. However, a more critical analysis reveals that this episode is decidedly different from the countless coups that have taken place in the post-colonial history of Africa. In fact, a number of Zimbabwean commentators have made precisely that claim (see here and here).

George Shire, a London-based political analyst, and veteran of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, incisively noted to Al-Jazeera, “The dominance of ZANU-PF [Zimbabwe’s ruling party since liberation] on the political landscape in Zimbabwe is not in question…What you see is really a leadership contest taking place – Zimbabwean style.” This point is critical in that, typically, a coup would overthrow not only the President, but an entire ruling party in favor of a military that either assumes control itself or installs some new power structure or party. In this case, however, the military has intervened to block one faction of the ruling party from assuming power in favor of another faction.

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