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Biden Kicks Off Asia Tour

As the U.S. president heads east, North Korea may be plotting to conduct a nuclear or missile test.

By , an editorial fellow at Foreign Policy.
U.S. President Joe Biden boards Air Force One.
U.S. President Joe Biden boards Air Force One.
U.S. President Joe Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on May 13. STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re following U.S. President Joe Biden’s Asia tour, Ukraine’s first war crimes trial, and the Taliban’s ongoing crackdown on women’s rights. 

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Biden Heads to South Korea and Japan

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re following U.S. President Joe Biden’s Asia tour, Ukraine’s first war crimes trial, and the Taliban’s ongoing crackdown on women’s rights. 

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Biden Heads to South Korea and Japan

U.S. President Joe Biden will touch down in Asia today for the first time in his presidency, kicking off a high-profile trip meant to bolster ties with regional allies and launch a new trade initiative. 

During the four-day-long tour, Biden will have a key opportunity to reinforce partnerships with South Korea and Japan as well as reaffirm the region’s long-standing importance to U.S. foreign policy—especially with regard to China

“China fits into this as a primary target; there’s really no better way to put it,” said Yun Sun, a senior fellow at the Stimson Center, who noted that Beijing has remained a top priority on Washington’s national security agenda. The “U.S. is trying to strengthen its coordination and cooperation with allies and partners in order to deal with China more effectively,” she said.

Biden’s first stop is Seoul, where he will meet with the new South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol; from there, he will head to Japan for meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The tour will culminate with a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue summit in Tokyo, convening Biden, Kishida, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the winner of Australia’s Saturday election.

In Tokyo, Biden is also expected to officially unveil the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a new U.S.-led initiative that would be designed to strengthen trade and supply chains in the region.

“The message we’re trying to send on this trip is a message of an affirmative vision of what the world can look like if the democracies and open societies of the world stand together to shape the rules of the road,” said U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. “We think that message will be heard everywhere. We think it will be heard in Beijing.”

But neighboring North Korea could disrupt hopes for a smooth trip. Both U.S. and South Korean officials have warned that Pyongyang could be plotting to conduct a nuclear or missile test to coincide with the tour, and Sullivan said the White House is bracing for the worst-case scenarios. “We are preparing for all contingencies, including the possibility that such a provocation would occur while we are in Korea or in Japan,” he said.

If Pyongyang conducted a test during the trip, it “will add another layer of urgency,” Sun said. But at the same time, she added, “A North Korea provocation is not going to be a big surprise because even before the Biden administration, I think people were anticipating that North Korea is going to act out.” 


What We’re Following Today

Ukraine’s war crimes trial. Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old Russian soldier, has pleaded guilty to fatally shooting an unarmed Ukrainian civilian in the first war crimes trial held over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He could face life in prison, the maximum sentence available in Ukraine. 

The trial could be the first of many: Ukrainian officials have reportedly already charged 10 other Russian soldiers for war crimes, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

Taliban crackdown. The Taliban have demanded that female television anchors in Afghanistan cover up their faces while presenting, the latest in a long string of restrictions targeting Afghan women’s rights. Earlier in May, the Taliban also issued a burqa mandate and required women to have male chaperones when outside. 

“Afghanistan under the Taliban has come to reflect the fictional totalitarian society of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, in which women’s bodies are treated as the property of the state,” FP columnist Lynne O’Donnell writes.


Keep an Eye On

Partygate findings. After a four-month-long investigation, British authorities finally completed their inquiry into the “Partygate government gatherings on Thursday. In all, 126 fines were issued to 83 people for breaking pandemic rules on social gatherings, though British Prime Minister Boris Johnson—whose very career was threatened when he was fined last month—was spared a second fine

Sri Lanka’s historic default. As Sri Lanka struggles under mounting economic and political crises, the country defaulted on its foreign debt on Thursday. With the default—the first in Sri Lankan history—the country now owes an estimated $51 billion

“As Sri Lanka’s economic catastrophe continues, so will the demonstrations—ensuring the political crisis isn’t over yet either,” journalist Virginia Jeffries and activist Laxmanan Sanjeev wrote in Foreign Policy yesterday. Despite facing immense pressure to resign, they write, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa looks to be preparing for the long haul.


Odds and Ends 

Condé Nast, the publishing giant behind Vogue, has apologized to a pub in Cornwall, England, just days after threatening to sue it for bearing a similar name to the fashion publication.

As Monday’s Morning Brief noted, the pub—called Star Inn at Voguewrote a letter rejecting the publisher’s demand, explaining that the pub is in a village called Vogue that is much older than the magazine while noting that the singer Madonna presumably had not sought the company’s permission when choosing the title of her hit song. 

“When I opened the letter, I thought some bugger in the village was having me on,” Mark Graham, the pub landlord, told Cornwall Live. 

Graham has not given up on poking fun at the publication; according to the BBC, his potential plans include publishing a local parish magazine called Vogue Magazine and a rearrangement of Madonnas Vogue, to be performed by some of the villages larger, hairier men in skimpy clothing at the ale festival later this year.

To apologize, Condé Nast sent the pub a framed letter of apology. “From one Vogue to another—please accept our apologies,” the letter said.

Christina Lu is an editorial fellow at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @christinafei

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