North Korea Summit: Outside the Eye of the Storm

The momentarily canceled Trump-Kim summit was, perhaps, un-canceled over the weekend, after a surprise meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas in which they held each other — tenderly even. President Trump declared that preparations for the summit are in motion, and specialists on both sides are evidently on it.


We aren’t going to whiplash around every twist and turn on the road to Singapore, but one thing that my fellow Signalista Gabe thinks shouldn’t go unnoticed is this: whether the summit happens or not, the peculiar geopolitical-astrological alignment of Trump’s presidency and Kim’s audacity has already reshaped the geopolitics of Northeast Asia in three important ways.

Closer Koreas: In just over a month, the leaders of the two Koreas have met as many times as all of their predecessors since the Korean War combined. Public opinion in South Korea has warmed considerably towards the North. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has seized on Trump’s unconventional style to pursue precisely the conciliatory path with Pyongyang that he’s always favored. The longer he can keep Trump at the table (or at least circling around it), the more time Moon he has forge a closer, and less conflict-prone, relationship with the North.

China resets: Barely a year ago, North Korea and China were openly venting at each other. But Kim has travelled to Beijing twice now, all smiles. As Trump aims for a Nobel prize, China spies an opportunity to dictate any Korean settlement on terms favorable to Beijing’s economic and strategic interests. For their part, China and South Korea are also more aligned than ever on how to approach the North. Last week, they agreed to offer a package of economic assistance for Pyongyang in exchange for a slow, phased denuclearization.

Japan warms to China: Trump’s decision to largely leave Japan out in the cold on North Korea diplomacy has pushed Tokyo to open new channels with Beijing, traditionally its main regional foe. Xi and Abe have spoken by phone for the first time ever, and Japan has expressed support for key Chinese economic initiatives, in part to secure a seat at the table in any eventual talks. That represents a potentially major diplomatic thaw, but also a palpable reorientation for the United States’ closest regional ally. (For more on US allies whom Trump has pushed warily towards China, see here.)

Why it all matters: Whether or not the Trump-Kim summit happens, big and decisive changes have already occurred in the region. What do they all have in common? You tell us what pattern you see here…

Paper was originally made from rags until the introduction of cellulose in 1800. Since then, it has transformed into a "circular" industry, with 55% of paper produced in Italy recovered. It no longer just comes from trees, either. Some companies produce paper with scraps from the processing of other products like wool and walnuts.

Learn more about this rags to riches story in Eni's new Energy Superfacts series.

In late 2017, Zimbabwe's long-serving strongman Robert Mugabe was deposed by the army after 37 years in power. Amid huge popular celebrations, he handed over the reins to Emmerson Mnangagwa, his former spy chief. It was an extraordinary turn of history: Mugabe, one of Africa's last "Big Men" and a hero of the country's liberation war to end white minority rule, went out with barely a whimper, placing Zimbabwe — stricken by economic ruin and international isolation — in the hands of "The Crocodile."

Mugabe has since died, but almost three years after his departure, Zimbabwe's woes continue.

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As the world prepares to mark the 75th anniversary since American forces dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, global non-proliferation efforts, first codified in Cold War-era treaties, are in jeopardy. While the overall number of nuclear weapons continues to decrease — mainly because the US and Russia have set about dismantling retired weapons — both countries, which account for 90 percent of the world's total nuclear arsenal, continue to modernize their nuclear weapons programs. Meanwhile, the New START treaty, which limits the number of long-range nuclear weapons that each side can deploy to about 1,500 apiece, is at risk of collapsing. Here's a look at which countries have nuclear weapon stockpiles and who's ready to use them.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Happy Monday, we are in August, summer, should be taking it a little easier. Coronavirus not taking the stress levels off but hopefully giving people the excuse, if you're not traveling so much, be close with your families, your loved ones and all that. Look, this is not a philosophical conversation, this is a talk about what's happening in the world, a little Quick Take for you.

First of all, you know, I'm getting a little bit more optimistic about the news in the United States right now. Yes, honestly, I am. In part because the caseload is flattening across the country and it's reducing in some of the core states that have seen the greatest explosion in this continuation of the first wave. Yes, the deaths are going up and they should continue to for a couple of weeks because it is a lagging indicator in the United States. But the fact that deaths are going up does not say anything about what's coming in the next few weeks. That tells you what's happened in the last couple of weeks.

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