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Planning for Korean Reunification

SEOUL – The long-simmering North Korean nuclear crisis has reached a near boiling point. Last month, the Hermit Kingdom launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of hitting major US cities. The United Nations Security Council responded with a unanimous vote to impose new economic sanctions on the country – the most stringent yet – which would cut at least one third of its annual export revenue. Since then, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President...

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The Wrong Way to Prevent Nuclear War

STOCKHOLM – A vast majority of countries want to eliminate the existential threat of nuclear catastrophe, and rightly so. But achieving a world free of nuclear weapons is easier said than done, and there is a risk that some attempts to do so could prove self-defeating. Since the end of the Cold War, nuclear stockpiles around the world have been significantly reduced. Russia and the United States have each shrunk their nuclear arsenals by 80%, and during Barack Obama’s...

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The End of Asia’s Strategic Miracle?

TOKYO – It is too soon to know whether and how the challenge posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs will be resolved. But it is not too early to consider what that challenge could mean for a part of the world that has in many ways defied history.The moniker “Asian Miracle” goes some way toward conveying just how extraordinary the last half-century of economic growth in many Asian countries has been. The first economy to take off was Japan, which, despite a...

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A Trip Through Putin Country

VLADIVOSTOK – Russia’s Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM) railway “can be hardly named as a popular tourist attraction,” says one tourist website of the some 2,000-mile railway traversing Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East. “Most people even never [sic] heard of it.” The BAM’s older rival, the Trans-Siberian Railway, is certainly more popular. Since opening in 1916 it has attracted many big names, including the travel writers Peter Fleming, Paul Theroux, and Colin...

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Is Trump Killing the Dollar?

SANTA BARBARA – For nearly a century, the US dollar has been viewed as the financial world’s ultimate safe haven. No other currency has promised the same degree of security and liquidity for accumulated wealth. In past times of trouble, skittish investors and prudent central banks have all piled into dollar-denominated assets, not least US Treasury bonds. This may no longer be the case. US President Donald Trump’s chaotic administration has severely undermined...

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We Weep for You, Venezuela

BOGOTÁ – Until recently, Venezuela – the birthplace of the “Liberator” Simón Bolívar – was a free and rather wealthy country, boasting the world’s largest proven oil reserves and a marvelous people. It attracted millions of Colombian migrants seeking to escape the violence of the war against the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Today, those roles are being reversed: just as Colombia’s 50-year war against the FARC is ending, Venezuela is...

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Decolonizing Western Sahara

BIR LEHLU, WESTERN SAHARA – When Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco in 1975, it had been under Spanish control for nearly a century. But Spain’s grip on the territory had weakened in the dying days of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship. And rather than allowing a process of decolonization, Spain signed the tripartite “Madrid Accords” with Morocco and Mauritania, both of which subsequently moved in to annex the territory. Mauritania relinquished its claim in 1979, but...

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Britain’s Road to Perdition

LONDON – Full English Brexit is off the menu. Before leaving the European Union altogether, the British government now wants an “interim period,” in which the United Kingdom would retain the commercial rights of EU membership, while still contributing to the EU budget, observing EU regulations and legal judgments, and allowing the free movement of people. This period would last for at least two years after March 2019 – the official deadline for the Brexit process –...

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Weathering the Violence of Climate Change

SANTA MONICA – With India experiencing its worst drought in 140 years, Indian farmers have taken to the streets. At a protest in Madhya Pradesh this summer, police opened fire on farmers demanding debt relief and better crop prices, killing five. In Tamil Nadu, angry growers have held similar protests, and lit candles in remembrance of those killed. And at one rally in New Delhi, farmers carried human skulls, which they say belonged to farmers who have committed suicide...

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A Dangerous Game of Chicken

SEOUL – So far, the war between US President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un over the latter’s nuclear program has been fought only in words. But each turn of the rhetorical screw deepens the risk that, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, “jaw-jaw” could turn into “war-war.” Last month, following North Korea’s second intercontinental ballistic missile test of the summer, the United Nations Security Council unanimously agreed to impose new and even...

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