Morning Brief

Xi Meets Kim in North Korea

Plus: EU leaders discuss top jobs, Trudeau heads to the White House, and the other stories we’re following today.

The front page of a Chinese evening newspaper, showing images of a 2018 meeting between China's President Xi Jinping with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, is displayed in Beijing on March 28, 2018.
The front page of a Chinese evening newspaper, showing images of a 2018 meeting between China's President Xi Jinping with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, is displayed in Beijing on March 28, 2018. FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Xi Jinping begins a state visit to North Korea, national leaders meet over top jobs in the European Union, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau heads to the White House.

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Xi Jinping Makes First Trip to North Korea

Chinese President Xi Jinping begins a state visit to North Korea today, the first trip by a Chinese leader in 13 years. He is expected to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un today and Friday. Xi’s visit comes amid resumed tensions on the Korean peninsula—and the ongoing disputes between both leaders and U.S. President Donald Trump.

The two leaders will likely discuss the security situation on the Korean peninsula as well as economic cooperation between North Korea and China, which enforces U.N. sanctions. North Korea’s sanctions-bound economy is suffering, and the country needs food aid amid a drought.

Why now? The visit coincides with the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and North Korea. “The [anniversary] is a reminder that they are historically allies, even though there’s deep animosity,” said Michael J. Green, the vice president for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Xi’s trip sends a signal—in the face of continued tariff threats from Trump—that China and the United States are not working together. “Chinese leaders are fed up with Donald Trump,” Green said.

No longer a pariah. That China would use Kim to antagonize the United States shows how politics have changed, Katie Stallard-Blanchette argues for FP. “Increasingly, Kim is someone the leaders of the major global powers want to show they have a relationship with, and perhaps some influence over, rather than going out of their way to avoid,” she writes. “North Korea has become politically useful once again.”

Will the meeting affect U.S.-North Korea relations? Talks between Trump and Kim broke down earlier this year in Hanoi over U.S. sanctions and North Korea’s nuclear weapons. (The two sides disagree over the definition of denuclearization, Elias Groll reports.) Xi’s visit could embolden North Korea: “The most likely scenario is that it gives Kim Jong Un the confidence to continue defying the U.S. negotiators,” Green said.

Still, China’s mistrust of Kim remains, he added: “I don’t think they are saying, ‘No matter what we will back North Korea.’”

What We’re Following Today

EU summit opens in Brussels. Today national leaders from across the European Union begin talks in Brussels to decide on the EU’s top jobs. They are unlikely to reach many conclusions this week, as France and Germany have yet to agree over the head of the executive EU Commission, to replace Jean-Claude Juncker. The European Parliament has not unified behind a candidate. Meanwhile, nationalist European leaders already met over their future in the bloc earlier this month, Kimberly Dozier reports for FP.

Trudeau goes to Washington. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet U.S. President Donald Trump today at the White House. Ahead of national election, Trudeau walks a fine line: maintaining a relationship—and trade partnership—with Trump and distancing himself from the U.S. president’s unpopular politics. Trudeau is also expected to speak with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as the new North American trade deal comes up for a vote in Congress.

Hong Kong government ignores activists’ deadline. Protesters in Hong Kong gave the city government until today to fully retract its controversial extradition bill, but Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam disregarded the ultimatum. In messages circulating anonymously online, the protesters have threatened to “escalate their actions” if the government doesn’t meet their demands. Joshua Wong, the student activist released from jail on Monday, says that the demonstrations have “radicalized a whole generation of young people,” the Guardian reports.

British Conservative leadership race narrows to two. Voting among Conservative lawmakers in Britain today will bring the field of candidates vying to replace Prime Minister Theresa May from four to two, with Boris Johnson extending his lead. The last two will head to a mail-in runoff. There is no question that they will both be men—and that could have consequences for gender equality after Brexit, Sarah Donilon argues for FP.

Keep an Eye On

Romania’s 5G networks. Romania will begin auctioning the frequency for its 5G wireless networks later this year, with bidding open to all companies—including those with equipment from the Chinese firm Huawei. In neighboring Serbia, Huawei technology has been used to set up a facial-recognition surveillance system that confirms the West’s fears about the company, Bojan Stojkovski reports for FP.

Turkey’s president. Days before Istanbul’s mayoral runoff, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has resumed campaigning for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate—breaking with official strategy. The AKP lost the first time around and appealed.

Most polls indicate that the opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu will win on Sunday—suggesting a pro-democratic wave in Turkey, Murat Somer argues for FP.

Press freedom in Australia. Police raided the Australia’s national broadcaster earlier this month over the publication of classified documents. The raid is one of many on journalists since the conservative government’s victory in the federal election. It could prompt a debate about enshrining the freedom of the press as a legal right in Australia, C. August Elliot writes for FP.

The global gag rule. Organizations around the world lost crucial funding two years ago when the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump expanded a policy that blocks U.S. aid for groups that perform or promote abortion. Women’s rights advocates say the policy has led to a rise in unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions—killing women, Alia Dharssi reports for FP.

Odds and Ends

Sightings of an unauthorized drone at Singapore’s main airport have shut down one of its two runways this week, delaying and diverting a few dozen flights. Drone flying has disrupted several airports over the last year: In December, drone sightings wreaked havoc at London’s Gatwick airport for three straight days, costing more than $63 million.

Foreign Policy Recommends

The BBC was granted a rare but highly stage-managed view of life inside one of China’s so-called “re-education” camps, where it is estimated that between one and three million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims are detained in Xinjiang province. The camera crew were shown saccharine scenes of detainees painting, dancing and singing patriotic songs. But despite Chinese officials attempts to control the visit, every so often there is a glimpse of the chilling reality of China’s mass incarceration. Amy Mackinnon, staff writer

That’s it for today.

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Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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