North Korea Celebrates July 4 With One Big Firework


Russia and China Hold Talks Before G20 Summit: Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up his two-day visit to Russia, afterwards stating that Russia and China were each other’s “most trustworthy strategic partners.” Among the issues discussed during the visit were security concerns and closer economic ties, including an investment fund worth $10 billion that was signed into agreement on Tuesday. Money from the Russia-China RMB Cooperation Fund will be invested in infrastructure projects linked to China’s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union.

Despite the successful visit and declarations of friendship between the two countries, “pressure points” continue to exist in the China-Russia relationship. China’s OBOR initiative will involve several former Soviet Union countries, including Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and the Kyrgyz Republic. China’s growing presence in this region could complicate Russia’s existing, but decreasing, influence in Eurasia in the near future.

US Senators Warn of Lack of Diplomatic Presence in Afghanistan: A delegation of US Senators who traveled to Afghanistan issued a sharp warning to the Trump administration that embassy and US State Department officials are needed in the country to help address its continuing political and military crises. For months there has been no permanent US ambassador to Afghanistan. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) described the lack of diplomatic presence in the country as “unnerving,” and called on the administration to appoint an ambassador and to fill many of the vacant positions in the State Department that oversee South and Central Asia. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said the military had expressed concern about “the hollowing out of the State Department.” As a result, American commanders have been taking on diplomatic work around the country, once again highlighting the US military’s overwhelming and outsized role in Afghanistan.  


Indian Prime Minister Makes Historic Visit to Israel: Narendra Modi arrived in Israel Tuesday, the first time an Indian Prime Minister has visited the country. Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold talks for three days on topics ranging from defense to bolstering economic ties, and will meet with industry leaders and members of Israel’s Indian community. In recent years, Israel has become an important defense supplier for India. In April, in what Israel called the “largest defense contract deal” in its history, the two nations signed an air and missile defense deal worth almost $2 billion. Bilateral economic trade between the two countries has increased dramatically since formal diplomatic ties were established in 1992.   

With rising conflict and fewer stable democracies around the world, forging tighter relationships with Israel and the West are becoming ever more important to India. Also on Modi’s mind may be the escalating border dispute between India and neighboring China, with both sides accusing the other of territorial intrusions. According to a senior fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies: “One of the reasons that Israel and the West are really important for India is that China can outspend India any day and every day.”


North Korea Launches ICBM Capable of Reaching the US: A US Defense Department spokesperson said that North Korea test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile  (ICBM) on Tuesday, which some experts stated had the range to reach Alaska as well as parts of the mainland United States. North Korea said on Wednesday that this new ICBM can carry a large nuclear warhead. The missile flew 1,741 miles before landing in the waters west of Japan, 578 miles from its launch site. Kim Jong-Un–nothing if not a magnanimous megalomaniac–called it an Independence Day gift to the US, saying “we should deliver big and small presents often,” according to North Korean state media. The US and South Korea announced they had conducted a joint exercise in response to the launch.

Chinese Human Rights Activist May Receive Foreign Treatment: Imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo has been undergoing treatment at a Shenyang hospital for late-stage liver cancer that was diagnosed in late May. On Wednesday, the judicial bureau in Shenyang said that it had agreed to Liu’s family members’ and his medical team’s request for foreign experts. The Chinese government says it has invited American and German liver cancer experts to join the Chinese medical team treating Liu. Foreign governments and Liu’s family and advocates have implored Beijing to release him and give him the freedom to choose where and how he wants to be treated.


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