Morning Brief

What to Make of Trump and Kim’s Surprise Meeting

Plus: Protests in Sudan, violence at a pro-democracy march in Hong Kong, and what to watch in the world this week.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump shake hands inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating South and North Korea on June 30.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump shake hands inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating South and North Korea on June 30. Handout photo by Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: An unexpected meeting revives U.S.-North Korea talks, protesters hit the streets in Sudan, and the annual pro-democracy march in Hong Kong turns violent.

We welcome your feedback at morningbrief@foreignpolicy.com.


What Comes Next for Trump and Kim?

It began with a tweet: U.S. President Donald Trump made a historic step into North Korea on Sunday, shaking hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas. The surprise move was followed by a closed meeting between the two leaders, who agreed to resume the nuclear negotiations that broke down in Hanoi in February.

Beyond that, the next step is not yet clear. South Koreans responded to the surprise meeting with both hope for peace and concern that the next summit would lack substance—and opportunity for South Korean involvement. Several U.S. Democratic candidates criticized Trump, labeling the event a “photo-op.”

A symbolic act. Trump’s move may have been the only way to get the talks back on track, Andray Abrahamian argues in FP. “It was going to take a powerful gesture by the United States to unlock this state of affairs, but it was unclear what it could be,” he writes. “[I]n the end, his willingness to go over the border and step over the line, taking a brief stroll on North Korean soil, was the symbolic act the North Koreans needed.”

What’s in it for Trump? It’s not yet clear what will change with the resumed talks, particularly as the North Korean negotiators don’t seem prepared to discuss the country’s denuclearization, or even agree on what the term means. Trump has indicated that U.S. sanctions on North Korea—the key disagreement in Hanoi—will remain in place.

“The question is what Trump might get in return,” writes FP’s Michael Hirsh. “Most experts believe that Pyongyang will never surrender its nuclear program while it remains under threat from Washington and Seoul. It probably won’t give up all that much now, though Kim has already offered up half a loaf, including the dismantling of his Yongbyon nuclear facility.”

A phased approach. Trump said on Sunday that Stephen Biegun would remain the U.S. lead negotiator with North Korea during the renewed talks. The designation is noteworthy, Hirsh writes, because “Biegun has in the past favored a more phased approach than National Security Advisor John Bolton and other hawks.”


What We’re Following Today

Sudan’s military faces renewed street protests. Sudan’s opposition mounted the biggest demonstrations since security forces raided a protest camp in June, with tens of thousands taking to the streets in Khartoum and other cities on Sunday. Soldiers fired tear gas at the protesters, and at least seven people were killed and 181 wounded, according the the state news agency. While the protesters continue to demand a handover of power to civilians, Sudan’s de facto military ruler, Gen. Mohamed Hamdan “Hemeti” Dagolo, is cementing his legitimacy: He has already brokered a lobbying deal for influence on the international stage, Justin Lynch and Robbie Gramer report. Dagolo commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces—who have been blamed for most of the violence against protesters. For his part, Dagolo blamed the violence on “infiltrators, people who want to jeopardize progress.”

Violence erupts on Hong Kong handover anniversary. July 1 marks Hong Kong’s annual pro-democracy march, coinciding with the anniversary of the city’s handover and—this year—widespread public opposition toward a bill that would allow extradition to mainland China. Today’s protests turned violent after police used tear gas on crowds and some of the more radical protesters stormed the city’s legislature—ramming its glass doors with a cart loaded with garbage—despite pro-democracy lawmakers’ attempts to stop them. There are also reports that protesters threw a substance, suspected to be drain cleaner, at police officers, leading the the hospitalization of 13 officers—a move that could dampen public support for the protest movement. Tens of thousands already turned out for a rally in support of police on Sunday. Analysts say that as the demonstrations continue, China’s Communist Party will increasingly intervene and the Hong Kong government will prosecute more protesters.

Bombing in Kabul. A large car bomb detonated during rush hour in central Kabul on Monday, killing at least 10 people and wounding dozens more. The bomb exploded outside the country’s defense ministry and seemed to target the military. Three men were seen entering the building after the explosion and the Taliban has claimed responsibility; the group’s spokesman, Zabuhullah Mujahid, declared in a statement that Taliban fighters had attacked “the logistics and engineering centers” of the ministry.

European Union can’t agree on chief exec. Disagreement reigned at the special EU summit held on Sunday to decide the bloc’s top jobs, including the next European Commission president. The favored candidate, Frans Timmermans of the Netherlands, faced strong opposition from Eastern European countries. The Commission president must be appointed with the support of at least 72 percent of the 28 member states. While the deadline to fill the post is Wednesday, the European Union might call another summit on July 15.


The World This Week

The European Commission is expected to reach a decision over Italy’s debt crisis on Tuesday that could involve a disciplinary procedure. The European Union has asked Italy to take new actions to reduce its large public debt, which is projected to expand this year and next.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet Pope Francis on Thursday at the Vatican. The visit, which comes as relations between the Vatican and the Orthodox Church improve, could lead to a historic papal trip to Russia.

Greece holds a snap election on Sunday, after the leftist Syriza party suffered big losses in the European Parliament elections in May. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is unlikely to hold onto power: The conservative New Democracy party is leading the polls.

The final week of the Women’s World Cup starts today in Lyon, France. The United States will play England and the Netherlands will face off with Sweden for spots in the final on Sunday. This year’s event has drawn new fans and broken TV audience records.


Keep an Eye On

Venezuela’s crisis. On Sunday, Venezuela confirmed the death in custody of a military officer who was detained over alleged involvement in a plot to oust President Nicolás Maduro. The news comes following a visit to Venezuela by the U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, who will present a report on the situation on Friday. The third round of talks between Maduro’s government and the opposition could also take place this week, Bloomberg reports.

Landmark EU trade deals. The European Union has signed its first free trade agreement with Vietnam, which could eliminate nearly all tariffs between the country and its second-biggest export market. Another free trade treaty between the European Union and the South American bloc Mercosur was agreed last week after 20 years of negotiations. It will form the largest global market for goods and services, by total population.

The threat of swine fever. Cases of African swine fever have now been reported in six Asian countries, and China and Vietnam are culling millions of pigs to slow its spread. There is no prevention or cure for the disease, which is striking large-scale farms and driving up the price of pork.


Ballot Box

The Czech Republic could soon face a snap election, as Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s coalition partner threatens to quit over the appointment of a new culture minister. The threat comes a week after tens of thousands turned out in Prague to demand that Babis resign—the largest protest in the country since the fall of communism.

In another blow to Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), the former Turkish Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu—a onetime ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan—has sharply criticized the ruling party for its Istanbul election loss. Two founders of the AKP have plans to form a rival party later this year.

The two candidates vying to be Britain’s next prime minister held separate press conferences on Sunday, with both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt pledging to boost government spending. Johnson said he hasn’t ruled out suspending Parliament to force a no-deal Brexit by the Oct. 31 deadline.


Odds and Ends

Madrid’s new conservative government has reversed a ban on most polluting cars in the city center, drawing thousands of protesters over the weekend. The move—the first rollback of an environmental policy by a major European city—raised fears that others might follow suit.

After a spike in demand for electricity this month, authorities in Iran have confiscated 1,000 cryptocurrency mining machines from two bitcoin farms. Bitcoin has become a popular way to store wealth in Iran, where citizens are grappling with the financial stress of U.S. sanctions.

Gori, the birthplace of the former Soviet leader Josef Stalin in Georgia, attracts tens of thousands of international tourists each year. Some young Georgians are disturbed by its piecemeal treatment of his legacy—particularly at the town’s Stalin Museum, the New York Times reports.


That’s it for today.

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Audrey Wilson is the newsletter editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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