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KOREA’S FUTURE: WHAT WILL IT TAKE

KOREA’S FUTURE: WHAT WILL IT TAKE

We close a week dominated by the Trump-Kim summit with the most basic question of all…


What will it actually take for Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un to bring lasting peace to the Korean Peninsula?

What if…

  • North Korea signed a commitment to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs?
  • And the US pledged in writing that it has no intention of attacking or invading North Korea with nuclear or conventional weapons?
  • And North Korea and the US promised to respect each other’s sovereignty and normalize relations?
  • And the US, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia all agreed to help boost North Korea’s economy through cooperation on energy, trade, and investment projects?

If all these countries would just commit, in writing, to this agenda, we’d have a real breakthrough, right?

That already happened… on September 19, 2005.

All these commitments and more are documented in the joint statement that followed the fourth round of Six-Party Talks in Beijing. You can read it here.

Beyond these paper promises, important as they are, real success will depend on three things:

  • Patience: Any formal agreement will take years to implement. Can Trump and Kim each resist the urge to blow a fuse when things get off track? It takes longer to build a cathedral than to blow one up.
  • Trust: It will be harder to maintain patience if the men at the top don’t trust one another. That’s why Trump may well be right to go for a top-down approach.
  • Common purpose: Will Kim completely, verifiably, and irreversibly dismantle a nuclear weapons program his country invested so much to build? If not, will Trump lift sanctions in exchange for something less?

Without patience, trust and common purpose at the top, northeast Asia will find itself further from peace and closer to conflict.

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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made a lot of foreign governments really mad. Let's call the roll.

Europe. The EU is angry that Turkey is drilling for oil in the eastern Mediterranean, and NATO is furious that member Turkey has defied its protests to purchase S-400 missiles from Russia. Erdogan has repeatedly rejected pushback from EU leaders by calling them fascists and Islamophobes.

Just this week, Erdogan refused to express sympathy with France following the beheading of a French schoolteacher by an Islamist extremist, attacked Macron's own response to the murder, suggested the French president needed "some sort of mental treatment," and countered Macron's vow to crack down on Islamist radicals with calls for a boycott of French products.

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Less than a week before the US election, President Donald Trump is repeatedly questioning the legitimacy of the vote (if he doesn't win) over largely unsubstantiated claims of potential fraud in universal mail-in voting. But with absentee ballots coming in all-time highs in all states due to the coronavirus pandemic, some Americans worry that the system itself may not be able to handle such an influx of ballots, including those already cast by a record number of early voters. Whether or not you agree, Gallup data show that US citizens are now less confident that the election will be conducted accurately — and more concerned about election irregularities and voter suppression — than they were four years ago. We take a look at how Americans' views on these electoral integrity issues have changed from 2016 to 2020.

Belarus on strike: In recent days, the Belarusian streets have turned up the heat on strongman President Alexander Lukashenko, as thousands of state factory workers and students in Belarus heeded a call from opposition leader Svyatlana Tikhanouskaya to join a general strike. Protests have roiled the country since August, when Lukashenko, in power since 1994, won a presidential election widely regarded as rigged. Last Sunday, 100,000 people turned up in Minsk, the capital. Tikhanouskaya — who ran against Lukashenko in that election and is currently exiled in neighboring Lithuania — had demanded the president resign by October 26. When he didn't, the walkout began. In one of the most iconic moments of protest so far, a striking worker at a refrigerator factory climbed the plant's tower to record a dramatic call for Lukashenko to step down. Belarus has been hit with sanctions from the US and EU, both of which are calling on him to hold new elections, but so far he has shown no signs of backing down, deploying his riot police with the usual fury. Something's got to give, soon.

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Who does Vladimir Putin want to win the US election? Given the Kremlin's well-documented efforts to sway the 2016 vote in Donald Trump's favor, it's certainly a fair question. And while there's no solid evidence that Russian interference had any decisive effect on the outcome four years ago, the Trump administration itself says the Kremlin — and others — are now trying to mess with the election again.

So let's put you in Vladimir Putin's size 9 shoes as you weigh up Donald Trump vs Joe Biden while refreshing your own personal PyatTridsatVosem (FiveThirtyEight) up there in the Kremlin.

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