Name? Kim Jong-Un
Westphalian identity? North Korea
Why is he in the news? Last week North Korea launched a new type of tactical short-range ballistic missile which, according to the US, Japan and South Korea, violates international sanctions. Kim let the world know that this criticism was a wrong first step of “deep-seated hostility.”
Why do we care? Because we can consider this the start to another four years of stagnation with North Korea. Donald Trump used an unorthodox approach to create an environment of hope for change, but then lacked diplomatic finess to make any real change. With Biden’s approach it does not seem like Kim has any incentive to change North Korea’s behaviour, as his sister, Kim Yo-jong, emphasised by calling South Korea’s President Moon a “parrot of the US.”
Why should you care? Because change could mean ending one of the world’s oldest conflicts and changing the world for millions of North Koreans. Oh and potentially decreasing the threat of the use of nuclear weapons, which should be enough for you to care 6/10.
Who else cares? President Xi. After the rather unsuccessful meeting in Alaska last week, Xi is choosing a more confrontational approach to the West. Whether the new election law in Hongkong, the strong response to sanctions over the Uighurs, or the revival of Sino-Korean trade. 90% of North Korea’s trade is with China which stood still since the country isolated itself over the threat of Covid-19, Xi reviving that is sending a clear message to the world.
Any further comments? Despite the recurring comments of Kim’s sister, the South Koreans are still trying to improve relations with the North. The newest idea is to share a train through North Korea to the 2022 Winter Olympics in China. This approach goes back to the attempts of ‘sports diplomacy’ during the 2018 Winter Olympics when Kim sent his sister to kick-start negotiations between the countries.