What We're Watching: Kim Jong-un's New Weapon

What We're Watching: Kim Jong-un's New Weapon

North Korea's Dangerous New Weapon – North Korea and the United States have announced that a new round of nuclear talks will begin in coming days. The DPRK marked the occasion on Wednesday by test-firing a new type of ballistic missile, one able to carry a nuclear weapon, from a platform at sea. This was more than just North Korea's 11th weapons test this year alone. This missile can be launched from a submarine, a development that changes the game on calculations of which countries are in range of North Korean missiles. The talks, still expected to take place soon, should be interesting.


Iraq Protests – Baghdad and other major cities are under curfew after days of increasingly violent clashes between police and protesters demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. So far, 18 people have been killed, and hundreds injured. Demonstrations are common in Iraq. But these protests, which began over a lack of jobs, are the largest in years and seem uncharacteristically spontaneous. (There's no party boss whipping them up.) After years of war, occupation, and a brutal fight with ISIS, Iraq's economy continues to struggle. The need to balance relations with the US and neighboring Iran doesn't make life easier. Abdul Mahdi's government is barely a year old. As public anger rises, how much longer can he last? And if he falls, who – inside the country or beyond – will be jockeying for power?

Justice Delayed in Kashmir – Since Indian troops moved into Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir on August 4, and India's government stripped the territory of its partial autonomy, an uneasy calm has taken hold. The internet remains down. Mobile phone connections are still suspended. Many schools and businesses remain closed. The streets are quiet. But frustration is growing for many residents. Thousands of locals have been arrested, but there are reportedly only two judges assigned to manage the petitions filed to advance their cases. It remains unclear whether justice delayed will become justice denied.

What We're Ignoring

Hong Kong Mask Ban – Hong Kong has now seen large—sometimes violent—pro-democracy protests for 16 weeks. In response, the territory's embattled government is reportedly set to announce a ban on wearing masks in public places, an ordinance that hasn't been used in more than half a century. There are four good reasons to ignore the possibility that protesters will voluntarily shed masks. One, many don't believe the local government has any democratic legitimacy. Two, they're not big fans of colonial-era laws. Three, they don't want Chinese officials to identify them. Many of those now wearing the masks are already violating the law as part of their protest.

Microsoft announced earlier this year the launch of a new United Nations representation office to deepen their support for the UN's mission and work. Many of the big challenges facing society can only be addressed effectively through multi-stakeholder action. Whether it's public health, environmental sustainability, cybersecurity, terrorist content online or the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, Microsoft has found that progress requires two elements - international cooperation among governments and inclusive initiatives that bring in civil society and private sector organizations to collaborate on solutions. Microsoft provided an update on their mission, activities for the 75th UN General Assembly, and the team. To read the announcement from Microsoft's Vice President of UN Affairs, John Frank, visit Microsoft On The Issues.

News broke across the United States on Friday evening that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died, ending her long and distinguished career as a jurist. Tributes poured in quickly from men and women on both sides of the political spectrum. But just as quickly, her death has sharply raised the stakes for the upcoming US elections for president and the Senate, as well as the longer-term ideological balance of the nation's top court.

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Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares his insights on the biggest development in US politics this week:

So, the scriptwriters for 2020 have thrown as a real curveball, introducing the most explosive element in US politics, just six weeks before the election. The tragic death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who will be remembered as a trailblazing jurist, but also a reliably liberal vote on a court that was divided along ideological lines with a five-four conservative majority. This has the potential to upend the presidential election. And likely will motivate turnout on both sides. But also, importantly for president, Trump could remind some Romney voting ex-Republicans who were leaning towards Biden why they were Republicans in the first place. Which means that it has the potential to push some persuadable voters back towards the president.

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(Some) Thais fed up with royals: In their largest show of force to date, around 18,000 young Thai activists took to the streets of Bangkok on Saturday to rally against the government and demand sweeping changes to the country's powerful monarchy. The protesters installed a gold plaque declaring that Thailand belongs to the Thai people, not the king — a brazen act of defiance in a country where many view the sovereign as a god and offenses against the royal family are punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Activists also got the royal guards to accept a letter addressed to King Vajiralongkorn with their proposed reforms. We're watching to see if the Thai government — made up mostly of the same generals who took over in a 2014 coup and then stage-managed last year's election to stay in power — continues to exercise restraint against the activists. So far, some protest leaders have been detained but they are growing bolder in their defiance of the military and the royal family, the two institutions that have dominated Thai politics for decades. Prime Minister and former army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha is in a tough spot: many young and liberal Thais will hate him if he cracks down hard on the peaceful protesters, but not doing so would make him look weak in the eyes of his power base of older, more conservative Thais who still venerate the monarchy and are fine with the military calling the shots in politics.

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32: Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra survived an impeachment vote on Friday after only 32 out of 130 lawmakers supported his removal for allegedly trying to block an investigation into misuse of public funds. Vizcarra was in peril just a week ago, but the case for impeachment lost steam after the president was backed by the military and influential opposition leaders who insist the country needs stability to fight COVID-19.

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