Asia/Africa update: October 10 2018

ASIA

ARMENIA

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan says he’ll be tendering his resignation in the next few days, by October 16, with an eye toward holding a snap election in early-mid December. Pashinyan finally seems to have enough parliamentary support to call for a new election, which he’s expecting will break the power of Armenia’s Republican Party and give him his own parliamentary majority.

AFGHANISTAN

The United Nations says that 2798 Afghan civilians were killed in the first nine months of 2018, most of them by either the Taliban or ISIS.

If the actual violence of the war isn’t killing, immiserating, and displacing Afghans, then it’s the war’s ancillary effects–on the country’s water supply, for example:

The United Nations has stated that water scarcity — not war — is a rising cause for displacement in Afghanistan. There are 1.5 million Afghans, approximately 4 percent of the population, that are displaced and 448,000 were added in 2017 alone. The U.S. Geological Survey has stated that the groundwater level has, on average, declined by 1.4 mm between 2004-2012, and 22 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces are facing drought today. According to the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), only 27 percent of the Afghan population has access to safe drinking water and 37 percent use sanitation facilities.

To be sure, climate change and drought are reducing Afghanistan’s water supply as well, but the fact of the matter is this country has been at war basically nonstop since the 1980s and that’s ravaged its infrastructure.

PAKISTAN

In the latest sign that Beijing’s plans for global economic hegemony are hitting a rough patch, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan may be looking to change the terms of Pakistan’s Belt and Road relationship with China:

Preparing for his first visit to China as Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan is insisting that the focus of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a US$60 billion plus crown jewel of the Belt and Road, shift from infrastructure to agriculture, job creation and foreign investment.

“Earlier, the CPEC was only aimed at construction of motorways and highways, but now the prime  minister decided that it will be used to support the agriculture sector, create more jobs and attract other foreign countries like Saudi Arabia to invest in the country,” said information minister Fawad Chaudhry.

Mr. Khan’s determination to ensure that more benefits accrue to Pakistan from Chinese investment comes at a time that various Asian and African countries worry that Belt and Road-related investments in infrastructure risk trapping them in debt and forcing them to surrender control of critical national infrastructure, and in some cases media assets.

MALDIVES

I admit, he almost got me to believe he was going to go quietly, but recently defeated Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen looks like he’s going to attempt to cling to power after all. Yameen, who lost his reelection bid in the country’s September 23 presidential election to challenger Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, petitioned the Maldivian Supreme Court on Wednesday to challenge the election results. Since Yameen has already whittled the court’s independence down to nothing, there’s a pretty good chance it will rule in his favor, tipping off a serious political crisis that could, if it gets bad enough, rope India (backing Solih) and China (backing Yameen) in on opposite sides. Solih is supposed to be inaugurated on November 17. We’ll see.

CHINA

The Chinese government has gone from denying that it’s operating reeducation camps for Uyghurs living in Xinjiang to writing those reeducation camps–excuse me, “vocational training centers”–into the law. Anyone who appears to be “influenced by extremism” could be packed up and sent off to one of these places, which seems like an unusual feature for a place that’s ostensibly supposed to help you get a job. Offenses that could get one sent to a center include applying halal principles in areas other than diet and “refusing to watch state TV,” which I think we can all agree is a serious crime.

TAIWAN

In a speech on Taiwan’s National Day, President Tsai Ing-wen lambasted the Chinese government for putting Taiwan under “tremendous pressure” and challenging “the status quo of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.” Tsai warned of Chinese interference in Taiwanese politics and promised to strengthen Taiwan’s national defense to resist potential Chinese aggression.

SOUTH KOREA

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told parliament on Wednesday that Seoul might relax some of the sanctions it imposed on North Korea back in 2010, in order to reward and incentivize Pyongyang’s denuclearization. She seemed to pull back from her remarks when conservatives objected, and Donald Trump told reporters later in the day that South Korea “won’t do it without our approval. They do nothing without our approval.” Ah, I’m sure that sentiment will play well in South Korea.

JAPAN

If you want a look into just how corrupt the Trump administration is, even by Washington DC standards, there may be no better example than the case of billionaire Republican backer Sheldon Adelson–Trump’s largest 2016 donor–and his efforts to get the Japanese government to give him a casino license:

Adelson had a potent ally in his quest: the new president of the United States. Following the business breakfast, Abe had a meeting with Trump before boarding Air Force One for a weekend at Mar-a-Lago. The two heads of state dined with Patriots owner Bob Kraft and golfed at Trump National Jupiter Golf Club with the South African golfer Ernie Els. During a meeting at Mar-a-Lago that weekend, Trump raised Adelson’s casino bid to Abe, according to two people briefed on the meeting. The Japanese side was surprised.

“It was totally brought up out of the blue,” according to one of the people briefed on the exchange. “They were a little incredulous that he would be so brazen.” After Trump told Abe he should strongly consider Las Vegas Sands for a license, “Abe didn’t really respond, and said thank you for the information,” this person said.

Adelson’s support for Trump has mostly been related to Israel, but apparently it’s also bought him the ability to use the President of the United States as leverage in his overseas business affairs. How’s that swamp looking these days?

AFRICA

SIERRA LEONE

In more bad news for Belt and Road fans, Sierra Leone has reportedly canceled a $400 million project financed by China to build a new airport outside of Freetown. President Julius Maada Bio apparently decided the new airport made no sense and is instead looking to build a bridge connecting Freetown to Lungi International Airport, which is separated from the capital by an estuary that forces most people to use a ferry to get from the airport to the capital and vice versa.

SOUTH SUDAN

Officials from the UN and the African Union on Tuesday called on the South Sudanese government and rebel leaders to start implementing the peace deal they signed last month. There’s been little sign of implementation since the two sides signed the accord in Jeddah on September 12, and a few signs that it’s already beginning to collapse.

SOMALIA

Al-Shabab says it executed five alleged spies on Tuesday evening in the town of Jilib.

KENYA

Meanwhile, al-Shabab fighters killed two Kenyan teachers when they bombed a school near the Somali border overnight.

Author: DWD

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