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What We're Watching: K-pop in China, US ends Remain in Mexico, China vs. porcupine

South Korea’s top diplomat visits China

South Korea's Foreign Minister Park Jin traveled to China this week for meetings with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi – the first such high-level visit since Yoon Suk-yeol became South Korea’s new president earlier this year. They had plenty to discuss. China wants Yoon to keep his predecessor’s promises not to expand the use of a US missile defense system, not to join a US-led global missile shield, and not to create a trilateral military alliance that includes Japan. China also wants South Korea to stay out of a computer chip alliance involving Taiwan and Japan. South Korea, meanwhile, wants China to understand that it values Beijing as a top trade partner and wants to build stronger commercial ties. Yoon notably refused to meet US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during her uber-controversial trip through Asia last week. But he’s also made clear that his predecessor’s commitments to Beijing are not binding on his government. The long-term economic and security stakes are high, but we will also be watching to see if South Korea has persuaded China to relax restrictions on the access of Chinese citizens to K-Pop, the South Korean pop music phenomenon. Seoul needs durable commercial relations with Beijing, and millions of Chinese music lovers need their South Korean boy bands.

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What We're Watching: Trump-era immigration rule is back

"Remain in Mexico" policy is back. The US and Mexico several days ago reached a deal to restart the controversial “Remain in Mexico” policy, which requires that migrants seeking entry to the US wait south of the border while their asylum applications are processed. The policy has forced thousands of asylum-seekers to spend months – or even years – in rundown Mexican border towns where crime, rape, and kidnapping for ransom are rife. As part of the new deal, unaccompanied minors will be allowed to wait for asylum rulings in the US, and the Biden administration has agreed to improve human rights conditions at the border, including by providing migrants with COVID-19 vaccines. Upon coming into office, Biden pledged to take a more "humane" approach to migration than his predecessor, but in August the Supreme Court ruled that he had to follow “Remain in Mexico.” He has also been criticized by rights groups for failing to undo the Trump administration’s use of a public health rule to keep migrants out. The new agreement between Mexico and the US comes just days after Washington pledged to help Central America deal with the root causes of migration.

What We’re Watching: SCOTUS immigration ruling, Barbecue runs Haiti quake relief, Eritreans back in Tigray

SCOTUS brings back "Remain in Mexico" policy: The US Supreme Court has ordered the Biden administration to reinstate a Trump-era immigration rule that requires asylum-seekers who attempt to cross the US southern border to wait in Mexico until their applications get processed. This is bad news for Joe Biden for two reasons. First, he cancelled that policy because it failed to accomplish its stated goal of reducing processing backlogs, while leaving thousands of migrants stranded in Mexico in legal limbo. Second, Biden knows he can't actually implement the policy anew if Mexico doesn't agree to accept migrants whom the US wants to send back. More broadly, the ruling throws yet another wrench into an already testy US-Mexico relationship — with tens of thousands of vulnerable human beings caught in the middle. Biden, who's tied up with the Afghanistan fiasco these days, wants to avoid a tussle with the Mexicans amid record numbers of migrants arriving at the US border so far this year. The Mexicans, for their part, will probably want something in exchange (maybe COVID vaccines) to be helpful.

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