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.

As digital technology reshapes the workplace, a move toward skills-based training and employment will unlock opportunities for companies and job seekers alike. While automation and AI are already taking on many routine tasks, demand for people with technology skills is rising fast around the globe. Getting the right people into the right jobs within the right organizations is one of the biggest challenges facing the world of work. So how can it be overcome? To read some recent skills-related stories, visit Microsoft On the Issues.

In recent days, Northern Ireland has seen some of its worst street violence in over a decade. The anger has subsided a bit this week, but post-Brexit fears leave many uncertain about their future in a deeply divided land with a long history of political violence between Irish republicans and UK unionists.

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Iran has vowed to avenge Sunday's attack on its Natanz nuclear facility. Tehran blames Israel, which — as in the past — has neither confirmed nor denied it was responsible. And all this happens just days after indirect talks on US plans to rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resumed in Vienna. What the Iranians do now will determine the immediate future of those negotiations, a Biden administration priority.

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The end of "forever" in Afghanistan: The Biden administration says it'll withdraw all remaining US troops in Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that prompted Washington to invade the country in the first place. It's unclear how the withdrawal will affect American plans to steer intra-Afghan peace talks in the right direction under the terms of a peace agreement reached by the Trump administration and the Taliban in May 2020. Trump promised to pull out next month as long as the former al-Qaida hosts kept their end of the bargain by not launching deadly attacks (spoiler alert: they have not). Biden's move honors his campaign pledge to end a "forever war" that has claimed more than 2,300 American lives and cost the US Treasury almost $1 trillion since 2001. However, critics fear that a hasty departure could leave the Afghans helpless to prevent the Taliban from returning to power, rendering the entire mission not only expensive, but ultimately pointless.

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week on World In 60: J&J vaccine woes, Blinken warns China, Fukushima water and a large rabbit.

How will the pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccine affect the overall pandemic fight in the United States?

Yeah. Right at it, right? Well, we heard that the FDA has suspended vaccines from J&J because of blood clots. They found six in seven million cases. It's kind of like the suspension of AstraZeneca in Europe. It's likely only going to last for a few days. It's a very small percentage of the total number of vaccines that are being jabbed right now into the arms of Americans. It's not going to really slow America's ability to get everyone vaccinated, but it is going to create more vaccine hesitancy. People at the margins will say, "Is this safe? They said it was fine. Now they're saying it's not okay." I understand why there's enormous caution on the part of the FDA, but I wish, wish, wish the communications had been a little softer around all of this. Also will be a problem in terms of export, as J&J is going to be a piece of that. And again, others around the world will say, "Well, if I don't get Moderna, if I don't get Pfizer, I'm not sure I want to take it at all." So all of this is negative news, though I would still say the United States this year is looking really, really good among major economies in dealing with pandemic.

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750 million: While struggling with one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world right now, India has approved Russia's Sputnik V COVID vaccine. Moscow has a deal in place to produce 750 million doses of the shot in India.

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In recent weeks, both Pfizer and Moderna have announced early phases of vaccine trials in children, and Johnson & Johnson also plans to start soon. If you know a kid who wants to learn about vaccines, how they work, why we need them, this story is just what the doctor ordered.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Welcome to your week and I've got your Quick Take and thought I would talk a little bit about where we are with Iran. One of the Biden administration's promises upon election was to get the Americans back into the JCPOA, the Iranian nuclear deal. As of last week, negotiations are formally restarted, and pretty quickly, in Vienna, they're not direct. The Americans and Iranians are both there, but they're being intermediated by the Europeans because they're not yet ready to show that they can talk directly to each other. That's Iran being cautious in the run-up to their presidential election coming this summer. But the movement is there. So far the talk has largely been about sequencing the Iranian government, saying that all of the sanctions need to be removed before they're willing to go back into the deal, because the Americans after all, unilaterally withdrew from a deal that the Iranians were indeed adhering to, and the inspections did confirm that.

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