Briefing :- 10/05/17

Here is CurrentHow’s Briefing™ for the 10th of May, 2017 :-

1. Moon Jae-In sworn in as new South Korea President, says willing to go North :-

South Korea’s new president was sworn in today, just a day after a landslide election victory, and immediately declared his willingness to visit Pyongyang amid high tensions with the nuclear-armed North.

Left-leaning Moon Jae-In, a former human rights lawyer, backs engagement with North Korea in the quest for peace — in contrast to the threatening rhetoric from the Trump administration in recent weeks.

“If needed I will fly to Washington immediately,” Moon said in an inauguration speech after taking the oath of office in front of lawmakers at Seoul’s National Assembly building.

“I will also go to Beijing and Tokyo and even Pyongyang in the right circumstances.”

Moon will have a difficult diplomatic path to tread in his approach to the North, which dreams of a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the continental United States, and has vast artillery forces trained on Seoul.

At the same time the South is embroiled in disputes with China over a US missile defence system, and former colonial occupier Japan over wartime history.

He named former journalist Lee Nak-Yon, a four-term lawmaker, as prime minister — a largely coordinating role and appointed a new head of the National Intelligence Service, Suh Hoon, who played a key role in preparing the past two inter- Korea summits of 2000 and 2007.

Domestically, Moon begins his term facing multiple challenges, including the aftermath of the huge corruption scandal that saw his conservative predecessor Park Geun-Hye impeached and swept him to power, but leaves the country bitterly divided.

Ahead of the swearing-in, Moon met leading lawmakers of Park’s Liberty Korea party — which has repeatedly accused him of being a Pyongyang sympathiser — to “beg” for their cooperation.

“I will be a president to all people,” he said in his speech, promising to “serve even those who did not support me” and remain “at eye-level with the people”.

After the low-key ceremony he was driven through the streets of the capital to the Blue House, standing in the back of his limousine and waving to supporters.

Moon took 41.1 per cent of the vote in yesterday’s election, far ahead of Hong Joon-Pyo of Park’s Liberty Korea party, on 24.0 per cent, and centrist Ahn Cheol-Soo on 21.4 per cent.

The 64-year-old is bespectacled, reserved and mild- mannered, although some critics describe him as bland, indecisive and uninspiring.

“I liked the no-frills inauguration event and his down- to-earth style,” said Lee Jeong-Mi, a Seoul office worker who watched him pass by. “He really looks like a true people’s president.”

Since the beginning of last year the North — which says it needs atomic weapons to defend itself against invasion — has mounted two nuclear tests and a series of missile launches.

In recent months the Trump administration has suggested a military option is on the table, escalating fears of conflict — although the US president changed tone last week, saying he would be “honoured” to meet the North’s young ruler, Kim Jong-Un.

Moon is expected to have his first conversation with Trump in a phone call Wednesday, Yonhap news agency said, citing unnamed Seoul diplomats.

Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated Moon on his election, saying he would be willing to work with him on a basis of “mutual understanding and mutual respect”, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.

The phrasing is Beijing’s diplomatic code for acceptance of its stance. The South’s biggest trading partner, China has been infuriated by the deployment of the US anti-missile system THAAD in the country, which it sees as a threat to its own military capability.

It has taken a series of moves against South Korean firms seen as economic retaliation.

At home, Moon will have to deal with slowing growth, soaring unemployment and public frustration over widening inequality in wealth and opportunities.

The stellar expansion that pulled a war-ravaged country out of poverty has slowed down in recent years as the economy matured, with the jobless rate among those aged under 30 hitting record highs.

Such frustrations fuelled anger over Park’s scandal, which exposed the cosy and corrupt ties between regulators and powerful conglomerates that have endured for decades.

The family-run giants, called chaebols, dominate Asia’s fourth-largest economy but have come under fire in recent years for running their global businesses like personal fiefdoms, with minimum scrutiny by investors and regulators.

2. Trump fires FBI Director James Comey :-

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday made the shock decision to fire his FBI director James Comey, the man who leads the agency charged with investigating his campaign’s ties with Russia.

The surprise dismissal of Comey, who played a controversial role in the 2016 presidential election, is sure to send shockwaves through Washington.

“The president has accepted the recommendation of the attorney general and the deputy attorney general regarding the dismissal of the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters.

A search for a new FBI director was to begin “immediately,” the White House said in a statement.

In a letter, Trump told Comey: “You are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.”

“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”

“It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission,” Trump said.

FBI directors are appointed for a single 10-year term. The 56-year-old Comey, who is popular among rank-and-file agents, was appointed four years ago.

Democrat Hillary Clinton accused Comey of trashing her chances of becoming president by revealing an renewed investigation into her email use.

His dismissal will raise questions about Trump’s motives.

It will also prompt parallels with Richard Nixon’s decision to unceremoniously fire his attorney general, an event that plunged his presidency deeper into crisis.

3. North Korea arrests another US Citizen amid tensions in flashpoint region :-

A foreign-funded university in North Korea confirmed Monday the arrest of a US citizen — the second person linked to the school held in two weeks amid tensions on the peninsula.

The detention of Kim Hak-Song means that the North is now holding four US citizens, with the two countries at loggerheads over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile ambitions.

The North detained Kim on Saturday for “hostile acts”, the official KCNA news agency said Sunday, adding he had worked for the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST).

The school — founded by evangelical Christians from overseas and opened in 2010 — is known to have a number of American faculty members. Students are generally the children of the country’s elite.

PUST confirmed Kim’s arrest, saying he was detained as he was about to leave the country after a visit of several weeks.

“During that visit, Mr Kim was at PUST to do agricultural development work with PUST’s experimental farm,” it said in a statement.

It did not comment on the reason for Kim’s arrest but said it was “not connected in any way with the work of PUST.”

Two weeks ago the North arrested Tony Kim, a US citizen and accounting professor who was lecturing at PUST, accusing him of trying to “overturn” the regime.

Little is known about Kim Hak-Song.

The arrests of two Americans in such a short span of time comes as Pyongyang exchanges hostile rhetoric with the US over its banned missile and nuclear weapons programmes.

Pyongyang has carried out two nuclear tests and dozens of missile launches since the beginning of last year in its quest to build a rocket capable of delivering an atomic warhead to the US mainland.

Washington has suggested military action could be on the table but President Donald Trump has has softened his message more recently, saying he would be “honoured” to meet the North’s young leader, Kim Jong-Un.

The four American citizens held in the North also include college student Otto Warmbier and Korean-American pastor Kim Dong-Chul, who received lengthy jail terms for “crimes against the state” and spying, respectively.

The North has occasionally jailed US citizens and released them only after visits by high-profile political figures including former president Bill Clinton.

4. Macron vows to ‘fight the divisions’ in France :-

In his first address after estimates indicated his victory in the French presidential elections on Sunday, pro-EU and centrist Emmanuel Macron said he would “fight the divisions” in the country.

39-year-old Macron stormed to victory, defeating his far-right rival Marine Le Pen in a run-off vote.

“I have heard the anger, anxiety and doubts that a large number of you expressed,”  Macron said in a speech at his campaign headquarters in Paris, AFP reported.

“I will fight with all my strength against the divisions that are undermining us,” he added.

Set to be France’s youngest-ever president, the former economy minister vowed to work to “rebuild the link between Europe and its citizens.”

“A new page in our long history is opening this evening,” the centrist independent said, adding his presidency would be one “of hope and confidence regained”.

“France will be at the forefront of the fight against terrorism,” he said.

Congratulations poured in from leaders around the world.

“I called Emmanuel Macron this evening to warmly congratulate him on his election to the presidency,” outgoing French President Francois Hollande was quoted as saying in a statement.

US president Donald Trump took to Twitter saying he is looking forward to working with Macron. British Prime Minister Theresa May said she looked forward to working with him on “a wide range of shared priorities”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said Macron’s victory “is a victory for a strong and united Europe and for French-German friendship.” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he was happy that France chose a “European future”.

European Union  Council President Donald Tusk also offered his congratulations and said that the French had chosen “liberty, equality and fraternity” and “said no to the tyranny of fake news”.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called for a “stable” and “more integrated Europe”.  “Congratulations to @EmmanuelMacron, new president of #France. Let us work in France and Spain for a stable, prosperous and more integrated Europe,” Rajoy said in a tweet.

5. China has conducted new missile tests to counter THAAD: Report :-

The Chinese defence ministry has announced the successful testing of a new type of missile, a Chinese daily reported.

“The People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force conducted tests of new types of missiles somewhere in Bohai in recent days, and achieved desired results,” South China Morning Post quoted that the ministry, as saying in a statement. The statement did not say what missiles were tested.

The military said the test was designed to boost capacity to fight threats to national security, South China Morning Post quoted.

Military analysts said the “rare high-profile announcement of the missile tests” was a response to the THAAD deployment.

The announcement comes after last month Defence Ministry spokesperson Yang Yujun that Beijing would conduct live-fire drills and test new weapons to safeguard its security in response to the THAAD roll-out.

The US military began installing the first components of the system in South Korea late last month after North Korea refused to halt its missile launches and nuclear tests.

Zhou Chenming, from the Knowfar Institute for Strategic and Defence Studies, a Chinese think tank, said: “The test might involve variants of new missile types, including the DF-21, DF-26 and other types of Dongfeng series missiles.”

The DF-26B is the new generation of the Dongfeng series missiles.

Meanwhile, Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong said the test might also be aimed at Washington, which has sent two aircraft carrier strike groups to waters off the peninsula.

 

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