Indo-Pacific Geopolitics Newsletter 04/24/2023 | Foreign Brief

RADAR SWEEP Geopolitics Newsletter April 17– 24, 2023 Japan-South Korea rapprochement picks up pace Senior officials from South Korea and

Geopolitics Newsletter April 17– 24, 2023

Japan-South Korea rapprochement picks up pace

Senior officials from South Korea and Japan met in Seoul on April 17, for the first bilateral security talks since March 2018. They exchanged views on how to respond to North Korean threats and discussed ways to enhance bilateral security cooperation. Both nations also agreed to hold a bilateral meeting of finance ministers in South Korea early next month. This will be the first time the finance ministers of the two countries hold talks on deepening economic ties in seven years.

These developments follow South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol’s visit to Tokyo on March 16, the first such trip by a South Korean president to Japan in over a decade. President Yoon and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shook hands and agreed to mend ties, resume security cooperation and drop existing trade disputes. Representatives of South Korea, Japan, and the U.S. also met on April 14 in Washington, where they agreed to hold regular missile defense and anti-submarine military exercises in response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. The first round of trilateral naval missile defense exercises was held three days later.

Relations between South Korea and Japan had been operating at a precarious low since 2018, mainly due to Seoul’s repeated calls for compensation for Japanese atrocities during World War Two and Tokyo’s refusal to acknowledge, much less compensate, damage done during this dark part of history. President Yoon’s announcement to drop claims against Japan on March 6 has kicked off a rapid thaw in bilateral relations, amidst a worsening security environment in the region. However, Yoon’s decision to drop South Korean claims remains unpopular domestically, which could still complicate efforts at strengthening bilateral relations. Read more

As part of the Japan and South Korea rapprochement, diplomatic and Security officials from South Korea and Japan meet in Seoul, April 17, 2023, Photo: Kyodo

Indo-Pacific Geopolitics

South Korea, Japan, and the US staged missile defense exercises Apr. 17

South Korea, Japan, and the US staged trilateral naval missile defense exercises in response to increasing North Korean missile tests. The exercises came only days after the three countries agreed to increase deterrence against Pyongyang by regularly staging such military exercises going forward. Read more

China resumed construction in Antarctic baseApr. 18

New satellite footage shows that China is constructing a new base on Antarctica, for the first time since 2018. Some analysts believe that this new base could boost the surveillance capabilities of the Chinese military. Read more

Chinese FM stated both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to China Apr. 21

While speaking at the Lanting Forum on Chinese Modernization and the World, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang stated that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belonged to China and that discussions about China having to preserve a status quo were “absurd”. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Chinese exports to North Korea rose sharply Apr. 21

Chinese customs data showed that the country’s exports to North Korea continued to rise sharply for the second month in a row. Chinese exports to North Korea–which consisted of rice and other commodities–more than doubled in March, compared to the same period last year. Relations between the two countries will likely continue to improve in line with trade. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Chinese and Philippine FMs met Apr. 22

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang met his counterpart, Enrique Manalo, in Manila, where they agreed to resolve long-standing disputes in the South China Sea. Relations remain tense, with only weeks since the Philippines announced it would allow the U.S. to open two new military bases facing Taiwan. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos is also expected to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden in the White House on May 1. Read more


G7 ministers met in Japan Apr. 16-18

Japan hosted the G7 foreign ministers in Karuizawa, Nagano. The meeting was to set the agenda for the upcoming G7 leaders summit in May, in Hiroshima. Japan holds significant influence over the agenda and will likely push for WTO reforms. At the closing of the meeting, the present foreign ministers stressed their unity amidst aggressive behavior by China and Russia. Read more

U.S. President Biden met with Colombian President Petro Apr. 20

The two leaders focused on climate change, migration, and drug policy. They also both made promises for greater bilateral cooperation moving forward. Read more

Russian FM Lavrov visited Venezuela on a Latin American tour Apr. 21

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov concluded his tour in Venezuela, where he met Venezuelan President Nicola Maduro, after visits to Brazil and Nicaragua. Lavrov and his Venezuelan counterpart reviewed bilateral agreements in the financial, agricultural, and energy sectors, and held a press conference to announce new projects in oil production. The trip comes as Russia aims to solidify its relations with Latin American nations. Read more

National Security

South Korea could support Ukraine militarily Apr. 19

While South Korea has thus far refused to supply Ukraine with anything beyond humanitarian aid, President Yoon Suk-yeol stated that his country could provide military aid, if Russia continues to violate humanitarian law or attack civilians. South Korean military aid to Ukraine will likely also be on the agenda of next week’s Yoon-Biden summit. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Ramstein hosted the fourth Ukraine Defense Contact Group Apr. 21

Following his visit to Kyiv, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg joined US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and defense leaders from NATO member states and 24 other countries to discuss supplying ammunition and air defense technologies to Ukraine, though no major announcements were made regarding weapons. Read more

Belarusian Air Force conducted tactical air exercises Apr. 22

The exercises involved air defense missile force units using the Russian S-300 and Tor M2K anti-air systems and come at a time where Belarusian-Russian relations are strengthening. However, it is unlikely Belarus will become directly involved in the Ukraine war in the short- or medium-term. Read more

Finance, Economics, and Technology

Chinese economic growth rebounds Apr. 18

Chinese GDP grew at 4.5% for Q1, beating expectations and sparking hope that Chinese growth is back on track. Still, challenges remain as the Chinese economy struggles to achieve post-pandemic recovery, including many Western companies continuing to shift supply chains away from China. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Apple CEO met with Indian PM Apr. 18

Apple CEO Tim Cook visited India, where he met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and opened Apple’s first two retail stores in the country. Apple is currently in the process of shifting some of its iPhone production capacity from China to India. Read more

Portugal temporarily suspended VAT on some goods Apr. 18

Portugal removed the value-added tax (VAT) on 44 essential goods to mitigate the cost-of-living crisis. Products affected include milk, bread, rice, tomatoes and certain meats and fish. As in many other European countries, Portugal’s inflation is at its highest in three decades, with unprocessed food items being particularly hard hit. Read more

The Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) met in Moscow Apr. 20-21

The ruling body of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), comprising the post-Soviet states of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia, met in Moscow to discuss improving economic ties. The EEU has become an increasing focal point for Moscow’s foreign policy since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Read more

Politics and Society

The U.N. celebrated Chinese Language Day Apr. 20

The United Nations observed the 13th U.N. Chinese Language Day, with this year’s theme being “Chinese Wisdom for a Green World”. The number of people studying the Chinese language has increased in recent years, especially in the Global South, with the help of China’s Confucius Institutes. Read more

Indian opposition leaders conviction plea rejected Apr. 20

Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi’s petition to overturn his conviction was dismissed in court. Gandhi was convicted of defaming Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which disqualified him from running as a candidate in the next year’s general election. Many see Gandhi’s conviction, which precisely meets the two-year conviction requirement to bar him from political office, as a political move by Modi. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Indonesia celebrated Eid al-Fitr Apr. 22

Indonesia–the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country–and its neighbor, Malaysia, celebrated the end of Ramadan without restrictions for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. Read more [EXTERNAL]


The 2023 World Copper Conference waS held in Chile Apr. 17-19

Chile–the world’s largest copper producer–hosted this year’s Copper Conference, which was attended by industry champions, including Codelco, Freeport-McMoRan, and BHP. Demand for copper has soared in recent years, due to its importance in green energy technologies. Read more

Chile to nationalize lithium industry Apr. 20

Chile’s President Gabriel Boric announced that the country’s vast lithium industry would be nationalized. Demand for lithium–crucial for batteries–has skyrocketed in recent years and will continue to grow. Chile is home to the world’s largest known lithium reserves. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Activists gathered on Earth Day Apr. 21

Activists worldwide commemorated the 54th Earth Day. The world will likely see its hottest year on record either in 2023 or 2024. Thailand and India are both currently in the midst of record heat and drought. Read more [EXTERNAL]


Yoon-Biden to meet Apr. 26

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol will visit the White House to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the U.S.-South Korea alliance. They will discuss strengthening bilateral economic and security ties and are expected to announce measures to deter North Korea’s nuclear threat. Read more [EXTERNAL]

India to host SCO Meeting Apr. 26

India will host a national security advisor meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. While the Russian Secretary of the Security Council Nikolai Patrushev is expected to attend in person, China and Pakistan will likely only participate virtually. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Guatemalan president to visit Taiwan Apr. 24-26

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei will visit Taipei, where he is expected to meet with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Guatemala is one of only 13 countries worldwide that still recognize the Republic of China–Taiwan’s official name. Read more [EXTERNAL]

G7 Digital and Tech Ministers’ Meeting Apr. 29-30

The Technology ministers of the G7 nations will meet in Takasaki City, Japan, to discuss cooperation on digital and new technologies. They are also expected to discuss creating and aligning guidelines for sensitive technologies, such as artificial intelligence. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Digital China SummitApr. 27-28

China will host its 6th Digital China Summit, co-hosted by several government agencies, including the Cyberspace Administration of China. The summit will likely focus on the domestic development of critical technologies, such as artificial intelligence and quantum technologies, and how to overcome tech sanctions imposed by the U.S. Read more [EXTERNAL]


Contributions by: David Song-Pehamberger, Shravan Krishnan Sharma, and Madeline McQuillan

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