Iran has released a South Korean-flagged tanker (& its captain) it seized in January

Iran released South Korean-flagged tanker Hankuk Chemi and its captain.

  • Iran released the crew in February but many stayed with the ship.
Some good news.

A UN report says North Korea can likely arm its intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads

A United Nations panel that reports to the U.N. Security Council with the worrying, and unsurprising news:

  • “It is highly likely that a nuclear device can be mounted on the intercontinental ballistic missiles, and it is also likely that a nuclear device can be mounted on the medium-range ballistic missiles and short-range ballistic missiles” 
Weapons development has proceeded in leaps and bounds during the relaxation US pressure in the previous administration.
Nikkei has more here (may be gated)
A United Nations panel that reports to the U.N. Security Council with the worrying, and unsurprising news:

US Press Sec: China meeting was substantive despite focus on theatrics

White House Psaki speaking to reporters

  • CHina meeting was substantive despite focus on theatrics
  • continues to have concerns about human rights in China related to Xinjiang
  • cannot rule out further actions on China
  • evaluating appropriate next steps on China
  • US is certain China taking note of its renewed cooperation with allies
  • US remains committed to working through covax on vaccine distribution to other countries
  • US does not have new vaccine goals set, hope to have soon

China – US summit meeting coming up today, Thursday 18 March 2021

A high level US-China meeting is happening in Alaska today.

 

  •  China’s upper echelon diplomats will meet With Blinken and Sullivan

 

Unnamed sources with what is on the agenda on the Chinese side:

 

  • China is to propose a reversal of the Trump-era China policies
  •  China to propose lifting of US sanctions and restrictions on Chinese companies
  •  China will propose a Biden-Xi virtual meeting during the April climate summit

 

 

Wall Street Journal has more here (may be gated)

The US is expected to sanction Russia, Iran, China for 2020 election meddling

The sanctions against Russia are expected as soon as next week says a CNN report.

As a ps. US President Biden will hold a press conference on Thursday March 25 (i.e. next week) – this may be the venue for any sanctions announcement?

The latest International Atomic Energy Agency report shows Iran edging closer to developing a nuclear weapon

Reuters with the article on the latest from the IAE, on a further breach of Tehran’s deal with major powers.

  • Iran has started enriching uranium at its underground Natanz plant
  • using a second type of advanced centrifuge, the IR-4
“On 15 March 2021, the Agency verified that Iran began feeding the cascade of 174 IR-4 centrifuges already installed at FEP with natural UF6,”
The International Atomic Energy Agency in the United Nations nuclear ‘watchdog’. More here at Reuters report. 
Reuters with the article on the latest from the IAE, on a further breach of Tehran's deal with major powers.

More on concerns in the US that China could invade Taiwan in an accelerated timeline

The issue is gaining further attention in US media, this via Politico:
  • Top U.S. military officials are warning with increasing urgency that China could in the next few years invade Taiwan
  • It’s a timeline they say has been accelerated by the Trump administration’s repeated provocation of Beijing, China’s rapid military build-up, and recent indications that Taiwan could unilaterally declare its independence from the mainland.
  • “War over Taiwan would be unthinkable,” said Eric Sayers, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “A major challenge Washington faces is that Taiwan has been viewed by many as a 2035 planning problem. … The [Chinese army’s] capabilities have now matured to such a degree that this is no longer a dilemma we can afford to push off.”
Link to the article for more if you are interested.
taiwan

North Korea warns Biden that if it wants peace it needs to avoid ‘causing a stink’

Party time is over for NK after four years of appeasement from the US.

NK state media issues a warning to the US:
  • warns the US President Biden’s administration that if it wants peace it needs to avoid ‘causing a stink’
Party time is over for NK after four years of appeasement from the US. 
Meanwhile, North Korea’s Kim Yo-jong adds that joint US-SK exercises are “aggressive war exercises”. Yo-jong is the sister of the big Kahuna.

China’s President Xi has a 5 year timeline to annex Taiwan

So says Wu Qiang, a former politics lecturer at Beijing’s Tsinghua University.

  • “Beijing is looking at speeding up a resolution of the Taiwan issue during Xi’s third term as president,” Wu said. “This means that, over the next few years, the Taiwan issue will become the most important story in the Western Pacific.”
  • “It is a focal issue that will trigger changes in Sino-U.S. relations sooner rather than later, and will be a flashpoint for Sino-U.S. conflict,” he said.
The piece is from last week, posting as an ICYMI (as I did!).
Not good news for Taiwan if true.
Taiwan

Former French President Sarkozy found guilty of corruption, sentenced to prison

Sarkozy going to jail

Sarkozy going to jail
Former French President Sarkozy was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to 3 years in prison, two of which are suspended.
The 66-year-old politician was convicted of trying to illegally obtain information from a senior magistrate in 2014 about a legal action in which he was involved.
The evidence was a wiretap in which Sarkozy promised a judge a job in exchange for leaking information about another legal case, known by the name of France’s richest woman, L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.
In one of these phone calls with a co-accused, Sarkozy said of the judge: “I’ll make him move up … I’ll help him.”