North Korea’s nuclear escalation, explained
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“In April, cricket-star-turned-pseudo-populist Prime Minister Imran Khan sparked a constitutional crisis when he tried to stave off a vote of no-confidence by dissolving the Pakistani parliament. Eventually, the country’s supreme court ruled that he had acted unconstitutionally, the uproarious no-confidence vote proceeded, and he lost the prime ministership.
Since then, opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif became prime minister and has been presiding over a country hard hit by economic malaise — rising debt, a foreign currency shortage, and record inflation — deepened by the wide-ranging knock-on effects for energy and food insecurity presented by the Ukraine-Russia war.
All the while, the former prime minister has continued to hold political rallies that reinforce his street power. In turn, the government has launched a crackdown on Khan. Most recently, the police issued terrorism charges against him over a speech he delivered earlier this month. The next general election will be held in 2023, but Khan has been calling for early elections. Taken all together, it threatens to send Pakistan into an even more dangerous political phase.”
“High-level bilateral military contacts have long been a vexed issue. Beijing repeatedly rebuffed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s efforts to secure a call with his Chinese counterpart, Wei Fenghe. Austin finally succeeded in speaking to Wei in April after almost 18 months of efforts.
“We want more open communications particularly between our militaries at a time like this,” John Kirby, National Security Council spokesperson, said Friday. “Because when you have this much military hardware steaming and sailing and flying around, the chances of misperceptions and miscalculations only increase.”
But the relatively low-level nature of the canceled talks suggests that Beijing’s cancellation was more form than substance.
“These are all useful engagements but ones that are not at the very top level and …[bilateral] communications will remain open,” said Ret. Vice Adm. Robert B. Murrett, professor of practice at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School. “I would hope that as opposed to being canceled, these [meetings] are actually just being suspended and that cooler heads would prevail sometime into next year.”
The announcement of cancellations allows Beijing to publicly vent about the Pelosi visit while providing time to walk them back in the coming months. That performative aspect of the Chinese response reflects President Xi Jinping’s domestic political considerations and the need to burnish his image as an iron-willed defender of China’s territorial integrity. That effort is particularly urgent in the run-up to autumn’s 20th Communist Party Congress, where Xi is widely expected to emerge with an unprecedented third term as a paramount leader.”
““[T]o see us through the next year or more, we must all prepare for several cycles of a ‘suppress and lift’ policy — cycles during which restrictions are applied and relaxed, applied again and relaxed again, in ways that can keep the pandemic under control but at an acceptable economic and social cost,””