Indo-Pacific Geopolitics Newsletter 09/18/2023 – Foreign Brief

RADAR SWEEP Geopolitics Newsletter September 11 – 18, 2023 North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un met Russian President Vladimir Putin

Geopolitics Newsletter September 11 – 18, 2023

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un met Russian President Vladimir Putin

During the visit, Kim and Putin are seeking to deepen bilateral cooperation through weapon and technology exchanges. The two countries have expressed confidence about prospects for cooperation in aircraft manufacturing among other industries, as they both work to achieve technological sovereignty. As part of the trip, Kim visited an aircraft plant in the eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur. The facility is the country’s largest aviation manufacturing plant, constructing, and developing warplanes for the Ministry of Defense, including the Su-35S and Su-57 fighter jets, according to Russian state media. Kim is also traveling to the port city of Vladivostok where he will view the military capabilities of Russia’s Pacific Fleet.

The trip comes amid warnings from the West–notably South Korea, the US, and Japan–that Moscow must not break UN Security Council sanctions targeting Pyongyang. Putin has insisted at a press conference that Moscow is merely trying to build “good neighborly relations” with its neighbor amid geopolitical isolation and that it is not going to violate any sanctions. However, the two leaders have already pledged to deepen defense coordination, and Putin pledged that Russia would help North Korea build satellites.

Western nations have claimed that the two countries are working to develop an arms agreement. Doing so would not require the two leaders to meet in person, but Kim and Putin’s diplomatic display is entirely intentional–the two leaders have a lot to gain by displaying their alliance to the world, exhibiting general anti-Western alignment, and increasing pressure on countries like Ukraine and South Korea. Read more.

South Koreans watch a broadcast of North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 25, 2019 Photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images


The new Thai cabinet held its first meeting – Sept. 12

Thailand’s new cabinet holds its first meeting in Bangkok. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin was sworn in by King Maha Vajiralongkorn last week, ending a nearly four-month-long post-election interim. Thavisin is hoping to bolster economic prosperity for Thailand’s poorest, by investing in rural areas and expanding trade and infrastructure projects with Laos and China. Read more.

Vietnam International Sourcing Expo 2023 began – Sept. 13

The Expo, hosted by the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade, intends to connect foreign importers to leading domestic manufacturers. Vietnam has positioned itself as a major center for global production with its exports of goods and services amounting to nearly $320 billion in 2021, according to the World Bank. The event comes soon after the US and Vietnam signed a strategic partnership reflecting a broader effort across Asia to counter China’s influence and make the region a more competitive trading area. Read more.

Sri Lanka’s Anti-Corruption Act came into force – Sept. 15

The legislation is part of the preconditions for an International Monetary Fund rescue package approved in March. $3 billion in government budgetary aid will be disbursed in stages to the island nation. Read more.

Diplomacy, Defense, and Security

German-speaking Heads of State met in Brussels – Sept. 11

Representatives from Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein met to discuss Europe’s space exploration programs and the prospects for a circular economy. The meeting is seen as significant for bolstering cultural ties between the nations. Read more.

The 30th Anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Accords – Sept. 13

It has been 30 years since the Oslo Accords were signed between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), representing a milestone in the decades-long effort to ensure peace in the Israeli-Palestine conflict. However, the Oslo Accords’ legacy is in question amid growing unrest between Israelis and Palestinians. Read more.

Bright Star 23 military exercise concluded in Egypt – Sept. 14

The biennial Bright Star exercise, led by the US and Egyptian armed forces with 30 participating nations, demonstrates new equipment, tactics, and coordination for conventional and irregular warfare. Egypt aims to present itself as a reliable US ally in an otherwise tumultuous region. It is doing so with the hope of receiving military aid, $300 million of which is currently pending US State Department approval due to human rights concerns. Read more.

Society and Politics

Israeli Supreme Court held hearings on judicial reforms – Sept. 12

The hearings pertain to the government’s removal of the reasonableness law. The result could potentially diminish the court’s own role and have repercussions on Israeli democracy. The Supreme Court is expected to spend the next few months deliberating on the appeal. Read more.

UK’s terrorist designation for the Wagner Group came into force – Sept. 13

The declaration makes it illegal for anyone in the UK to join or support the Wagner Group. Any association with the group is punishable by up to 14 years in jail. The inclusion of the Wagner Group as a terrorist organization will probably increase pressure on the organization shortly after the death of Wagner Leader Yevgeny Prigozhin last month. Read more.

Italian trade union held a rally – Sept. 13

The Italian General Confederation of Labor (CGIL) Union held a major protest in Catania, Sicily, protesting a recent gang rape on the island. The demands of the protestors focused primarily on tightening laws to protect women for sexual violence. The protest precedes plans for a nationwide protest in October. Read more.

Environment, Finance, and Technology

Eastern Economic Forum plenary session began – Sept. 12

The plenary session of the 8th Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) took place in Vladivostok. The Forum was established by Russian President Vladimir Putin to boost economic cooperation between Russia and other Asia-Pacific states. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, however, the appeal of the forum has waned among foreign investors and representatives. Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a speech trying to downplay economic volatility. Read more.

The 77th International Technical Fair met in Bulgaria – Sept. 14

The International Technical Fair is one of the largest tech events in Southeast Europe. During the four-day affair, companies in the technological sector could market products such as advanced equipment and machineries to a wide range of buyers. This year’s fair was controversial because private Belarusian companies were permitted to open stands. Read more.

Ban on Ukrainian grain imports expired – Sept. 15

The ban on domestic sales of Ukrainian agricultural products expired today. The European Commission had extended the ban on tariff-free imports of Ukrainian grain several months prior, despite objections from Kyiv. Read more.


World Court expected to hold hearing on Ukrainian allegations of genocide by Russia – Sept. 18

The World Court will hear Russia’s objections to its jurisdiction in a genocide case brought by Ukraine in hearings starting today. Ukraine filed a case with the ICJ shortly after Russia’s invasion began in 2022, which accused Moscow of falsely applying genocide law to justify the attack. Read more.

EU Trade Commissioner begins China trip – Sept. 19

At the meeting, EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis is expected to put pressure on China to contain its huge bilateral trade surplus with Europe. Dombrovskis’ chief of staff, Michael Hager, traveled to China last week to prepare for the meeting. Read more.

2023 UN Sustainable Development Goals Summit – Sept. 18-19

The heads of state and government will gather at the UN Headquarters in New York (US) to follow up and review the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Read more.


Contributions by: Madeline McQuillan, Zachary Marthinussen, and Alex Rannou

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